Sorry. It won’t happen again…

Mom and Dad were planning an Alaskan cruise with a group of friends from their church when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1998.  With a departure date scheduled for just a month post-surgery, they canceled their plans. 

As his condition leveled out over the next few months, Dad settled into chemotherapy treatments every other week, and Mom assumed her role of primary caregiver.  The prognosis wasn’t great, but he’d made the decision to pursue non-heroic treatment for the near term… and was hanging in for his final year or so.

When the daily routine returned to something resembling “normal”, Mom would occasionally mention the trip, expressing her disappointment that their plans were scuttled by Dad’s illness.  Dad wouldn’t say a word as she would tell anyone within earshot “We were booked on that Alaskan cruise but had to cancel when Dad got sick…”

He apparently hit his limit one day when he quietly responded “I’m really sorry I got cancer and screwed up your vacation”.

She didn’t mention it again, at least not in front of me, until a few weeks after he died.

Priorities

I’ve yet to write much about my Dad – not sure i’m ready.  He died in 2002.  Rather than tackle that, here’s an indirect look, providing another glimpse of life in The Park.

Dad was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer in 1998.  The prognosis was grim, with somewhere between 6-12 months expected.  Mom, a retired psych nurse, proved to be a rather remarkable caregiver, devoting incredible energy to keeping him alive.  He lived until 2002, and of the last years, there were some good moments and her efforts gave us more time.

Genetically, we are not a family of ‘wasting away’ people – even after over 3 years of chemo, he was still around 260 lbs when he died.  After a fall in his room, it became obvious that we might need to rearrange the clutter in the house to allow better access for the emergency squad if necessary.

I suggested to Mom that we temporarily move a bookcase full of old record albums to the garage to clear a path down the hallway.   This was reinforced by my brother-in-law, a paramedic. 

Her response:  “We’ll just go out the window with him…”

Before i could censor myself: “Did you just say that a bookcase full of dusty old records is more important to you than my dying father’s dignity?”

Defensively – “that’s not what i said…”

“Well that’s what i heard”.

My brother-in-law and i quietly moved the bookcase to the garage that weekend.  And after Dad died, i moved it back without fanfare. 

Every time i visit, i see it sitting there, amidst the overwhelming clutter.  Unused.  Covered with dust. Still pissing me off…

Things before people. 

Not a conscious thing…hardwired into her.  Growing up during the depression did that to some people.  But it’s always there – and i’m still trying to let it go.