I love fall. Changing leaves, starting a new school year, celebrating my birthday — my favorite holiday 🙂 — and football.
Fall is also bittersweet…bringing up a lot of memories of my father. In the fall of 1998, I turned 21 and my dad was dying.
I was in middle school when we found out my dad had cancer. I remember sitting in the back seat of the bus, chatting with my best friend and just blurting it out. I didn’t really even know what it meant to have cancer. She didn’t either. I’m pretty sure we skipped right over it and back to our conversation about best radio DJ.
Through the years I learned cancer meant doctor appointments. Family vacations to see specialists. Medicine. New treatments. Surgery. Scary stuff for a kid.
We had plenty of time to say our goodbyes, to give one last hug, or to watch one more football game (or cooking show) together. The thing is — it is never enough.
Technically, I was an adult. Truthfully, I was just a child.
I had so much of my life ahead of me. I am forever grateful for the years we had and the memories I now hold; but, there was (is) so much he missed — my college and graduate school graduation, my engagement, my wedding, the birth of each of my four kids — just to name a few.
Little Man, my oldest, is now eight, about the same age my brother was when we knew we wouldn’t have long enough.I can’t even imagine what it was like for my father and mother to tell us. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
My father was brave, he was strong, and he was stubborn. But my mother was stronger. They didn’t let us worry. They didn’t let us live in fear. They weren’t weepy. We went on with our lives — we made great memories, we laughed and we cried, but we lived.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad (well, my parents) is that no matter what you don’t stop fighting and you don’t stop living. You deal with the doctors or the treatments and then you come home and you live.
My dad lived. He didn’t act like he was in a fight for his life. If you had known him then, you probably wouldn’t have guessed he was sick. He didn’t let his illness define him or control him. He lived until his last breath and even that was years after doctors told him he wouldn’t.
I miss him, but I know he lives on through me and now through my children. I’m just as stubborn. I’m a little bossy. I like order and discipline in my life. Little Man has my father’s strength and determination. Cricket is brave and just as stubborn. Peanut has his eyes — pale blue like the sky. I don’t know about Baby Girl yet — but there will be something.
My kids may not know him the way that I wish they could have, but they carry him inside. I share stories and memories. I talk about him, the things he would have liked or dislike and how much he would have loved them.
Fall is my favorite season. It is the time of year when I think of my father the most and all I learned from him. I miss you Daddy.
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