Friday, May 20, 2011

Reliving Lost Time

A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to fall asleep. Flipping through the movie channels, I landed on Field of Dreams. I put it on and was just planning on watching for a minute or two before taking off my glasses, when I got caught up in it.

Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) was invited to go into the cornfields with the ballplayers and Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) was mad because he wasn't invited. Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) says, "If you build it, he will come," and looks to the side. There, taking off his catcher's equipment was  Ray Kinsella's father, John, but as a young man. As John walks toward them, Ray asks his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) what he should say to his father. She replies, "Introduce him to his granddaughter."

That's when I start to choke up, as I'm doing now.

Ray introduces his wife and daughter to the man he hadn't spoken to since well before John's passing. John thanks them for building the field, then walks away.

As John walks away, Ray says, "Dad, would you like to have a catch?" and that's when I lost it, as I'm doing now.

My father died of pancreatic cancer in September 2004. I was married in August 2005. JD was born January 2007; Sydney May 2009.

So I'm watching this movie and I'm crying and it's almost midnight. But there I am, thinking about my Dad. The chance to have one more day with him, to show him my life and introduce him to my children . . . it's too much for me.

I've been thinking about my Dad a lot lately, more than I have in a short period of time since the months after his passing. I wondered why I was having these feelings now.

Right now, I should be cleaning the bathrooms. But I was making my bed and thinking about the trip we're planning for August. My sister-in-law responded that the same time that we're going is good for her and my brother. You see, she will have had her last chemo treatment about ten days prior.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer about two months ago.

As far as having breast cancer, it seems best-case-scenario. Found extremely early; the tiny tumor was close to the exterior; there is no indication of it having spread through her body. In other words, treatable.

She made a comment about getting some sun on her bald head (which it will become during her chemo treatments this summer.) So I started thinking about shaving my head for the summer, a way to be by her side. Then I wondered whether I was doing it for her or if I was doing it for me. Why would I do it for me? Then it hit me.

I'm planning on running the 5k at the Cancer Wellness Center event this Sunday. I'm doing it for my Dad and for Sis-in-law. But I'm also doing it for me.

When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I was 26. He died and I was still 26. He was diagnosed in February or March and died in September. I thought he was going to be okay when I first heard the news. He would fight it and we'd all go on. I did no research. All I did was internally criticize how he was handling it. It didn't seem like he was trying to fight. He burdened me by saying that we couldn't tell anyone. I didn't understand until I said all of this to my brother who responded, "I don't know whether to hit you or hug you."

Because what he had found out from his research is that pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. At that time, it was a 5% survival rate, and those who survived were in early stages. Dad was stage 3 when diagnosed. Death sentence.

But that summer I was working and living downtown, working around 50-60 hours per week, working at the business he bought from his father for $1 in 1966, the business I had grown up with and that had paid for my food, clothing, shelter, and education. Going to see him was not part of my routine. I didn't make time for it. It was out of my way. Besides, everything was going to be fine - he would pull through. And now, I can never get that time back.

So now I'm thinking about doing this race and shaving my head. That's when it hits me. Maybe sister-in-law's cancer is my second chance at being there for my family member who has cancer.

Not that she wants the sympathy or the attention - quite the opposite. She doesn't want to be the "cancer patient." How's work? Is better than, "How are you feeling?" Shitty, thanks for asking. I feel like I want to throw up, my hair is going to fall out / falling out and sometimes my insides feel like they're burning. And you? Let's just keep it to the normal stuff.

But it's not my cancer, it's hers. So while shaving my head still may be a good idea and for the right reasons, I should make sure it's . . . not the wrong thing to do. The race is the right thing to do because it's about me. It's me and the road. It's about me putting all of the grief that I have for my father and all of my support for my sister-in-law into every step.

I may cry at the end of Toy Story 3 or when in Old School Frank (Will Ferrell)

I can, and always will, feel his presence surrounding me.

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