As I write this, the man who raised me as a son since I was eight is on his way to the hospital. He hasn’t been able to swallow food or water for days now, and if something isn’t done soon, it can’t get any better. He doesn’t want us kids there right now, maybe he doesn’t want to inconvenience us, but it’s probably because he doesn’t want us to see what the cancer has reduced him to. I don’t think he understands that we don’t care about that.
You see, he grew up in a time when men were judged by their physical, mental and emotional strength, and you didn’t want anyone to ever see you in a lesser state. I’m so glad I don’t have to follow any of those rules, or I’d be failing miserably as a man. If I can’t go out fast, while stopping a stray bullet from hitting an innocent bystander in a driveby, I want all the people I love to be around.
Since he was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer, some ten years ago, he was given months to live. He was pretty down about it, and had kind of lost that fire he had always had. That was until he went to Kingston. While he was at the cancer centre there, he got talking to a lot of survivors, and they all had one thing in common. They were fighters. They weren’t going to let it beat them. They wanted to live, and were going to do what it took to stay above ground.
He came home with a newfound spark, and he kicked cancer’s ass for a long time, right up until this past winter, and he did it with only a portion of his heart. Most of his heart had been destroyed by the radiation in his first battle, and for about the last nine years, he went through countless surgeries, thousands of angina attacks, and I imagine enough pain and pills to make an average man give up and die. He also lost a pile of weight and anger over that time. I watched a man who took life for granted, and seemed invincible turn into someone who realized that life isn’t forever, and should be cherished.
He spent his time after winning that first fight, doing things he wanted to do, mostly with Mom, like yard sales and auctions, but he still went hunting and fishing with the boys every year. As much as I liked the young, strong fellow that I’d grown up with, I liked the new, old guy, even more. He smiled a lot more, and really seemed to have more fun with the simple things. I think that he and I became better friends, and instead of looking at me like that kid that always left his tools in the driveway, he looked at me like a man who had maybe figured some shit out.
I have figured out a lot of things in this life, and he helped me with a good bunch of it. I could tell when he first met my soon to be bride, that he thought I had found the right one. Mostly because of the approving look he gave me, but also because his eyes would get that sparkle in them when he talked to her. God, he can sure be charming when he wants to. I wish he knew that I think he’s more of a man now, than he ever was when he was younger, and no matter what our differences have been, he is the biggest male influence in my life.
I love you Paul,