A couple of weeks ago, I flew down to Texas on about 12 hours notice, because my dad needed me. That’s the first time in my life those roles were reversed, and it’s huge. I needed him, too. I still do, and always will.
My dad has always been a larger-than-life cowboy in every sense of the word. He is honest as the day is long, reliable – if he says he’ll do something, it always gets done, no exceptions. And he has a soft heart for beautiful women, his children, and horses. I can’t remember a time I didn’t look up to him as a role model. I get my strong will, determination, and self-reliance from the example he humbly lives every day.
I stayed at his house that was never my home, in a room with stuffed animals and a gun cabinet. As The Bloggess would say, it’s Texas, y’all. And that’s my dad. He’s soft and warm, a gentleman with a heart of gold, who will protect his family with every resource and ounce of strength in him.
As we talked about the ugly thing in his lung that frightened us both, that we needed to talk about, but refused to name, I soaked up as much of him as I could.
We talked about wonderful times before I was born, and fascinating things I never knew. And I realized, like everyone, that we never had enough time to really get to know each other. He was always “Dad” and I was always “Daughter” and we stuck to our roles. I know he loves me unconditionally, and I breathe because he is alive. As my eyes well up with tears, I fight them back because DAMMIT, he’s fought so many hard battles before, and has always won. He beat basal cell carcinoma, and then a melanoma that would have taken a weaker man to the grave. He survived a major brain aneurysm, and fought his way back to independence.
And now this.
Yesterday, the doctor confirmed our fears. Cancer has struck for the third time.
I told him how lucky he is. If he hadn’t had pneumonia two weeks ago, they never would have done the scan that showed the tumor. It’s small, and they think surgery will take care of everything. He’s the toughest guy I know. If anyone can get through this, he can.
But part of me understands how tired he is. And how frightened my big, strong, man of steel must be. I wonder whether he believes he can win another battle. Because, if he doesn’t think he can win, he won’t fight. He may think this is a battle that’s not worth the effort. I will support him, no matter what he decides.
My grandparents lived into their 80’s. Dad just turned 81. We talked about that two weeks ago. I think he’s looking at the end of his road, and wondering if this is the time to ride into the sunset.
I’m just not ready to wave goodbye.