I have never talked about my dad much. I never really wondered why, which is odd. I love my dad, and he’s an amazing man who helped foster my love for fantasy literature, and who helped me realized the importance of staying informed and involved in the political system. But when I share about my family, I tend to talk more about my mom and my sister. I’m not sure why. My family has always been the constant in my life. I’ve added some friends to that consistent level, but through everything, my family has always been there. Yet I’ve tended to consult and share more with my sister and my mom more than my dad, which probably adds to why I tend to not talk about my dad. But I find that now I want to share more about my dad, which will be very hard.
In October 2014, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There’s no way to know for sure, but that diagnosis is what the doctor used to base his decisions on. His personality is also changed a bit as a result of his brain deteriorating, so he became a little less my dad with each passing day.
You might’ve caught the past-tense in this post. That’s because in the year since the diagnosis, we learned my dad had stage-4 esophageal cancer that killed him 5 weeks after it was discovered. And this finality has added another layer of pain and sorrow that I know I will spend the rest of my life learning to live with a bit better every day.
I am in the 3rd year of a 4 year PhD program, and the news added an additional level of stress. My schedule prevented me from being able to help guide my dad through daily decisions and help ease my mom’s stress. And when I think of the future, a sadness creeps in realizing that my dad would most likely not have understood or remembered what all the work the initials I will one day add after my name means. It has also been another season of attending numerous weddings and baby showers, which is yet another constant reminder of the many moments still to come that my dad will not be present for.
As I work on my degree, there is a part of me that carries this weight. But there is another part that realizes this too is part of life. I never expected my dad to live forever; I just didn’t realize I would lose him the way the shore by the ocean disappears – a tiny amount wearing off at a time before it is suddenly and entirely consumed.
Writing my papers this semester has been the hardest because in the quiet spaces I carve out of my schedule to capture what I’ve learned in my classes, these thoughts dominate. And my classes aren’t about grief or loss – they’re about pedagogy and learning and education. A case can be made that my professors have been more gracious and understanding of my situation than I have been. I am looking forward to being done with the semester. I am not looking forward to not having my dad around for the holidays.