You know, if I had a nickel for everytime someone has said to me, "You're amazing," or "You're such an inspiration," or "I can't believe how well you're handling all of this," since I found out I had cancer, I'd have probably been able to cover the cost of that precious wig you helped buy for me. I must admit, I'm completely dumbfounded whenever someone says one of those lines to me. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it and I appreciate the compliment but I just don't get it. I mean, how else would one behave if given this kind of challenge? I've thought about it a lot and discussed it with more than one friend and I guess the answer is that some would totally fold under the pressure, hide under the covers, go into seclusion, push away their friends and family, etc. Fortunately, that has never been an option for me. And while I have had more than one momentary breakdown during the past several months, the thought of just collapsing under the weight of this thing has never once crossed my mind. I've thought a lot about why that is and the answer I've come up with is simple: YOU.
Whether through the nature I inherited from YOU or the nurturing I received from YOU --but probably both -- I've been blessed with the coping skills to meet this unfortunate (or fortunate?) challenge head on. More than any other person, YOU are the one who has given me the strength, intelligence, sense of humor, and grace I've needed to fight this disease. YOU are the one from whom I got my generous, outgoing, (sometimes) funny, Type-A, tenacious personality. (I also got my penchant for procrastination and short temper from you too but we won't get into that too much today.) YOU are the one who stressed the importance of personal and professional integrity and that your word is all you have in life and that without it, you don't have much at all. YOU are the one that taught me to save half first and then spend the rest (I fell off the wagon a bit on that one but I'm climbing back on, despite my pile of medical bills...). YOU are the one who taught me to choose my friends wisely, for which I've been so grateful over the past several months. YOU are the one who showed me the importance of being a leader, not a follower. YOU are the one who would not allow me not to compare myself to others no matter what (okay, Mom deserves a little credit for that one too...). YOU are the one who taught me that when things get really tough, you pick yourself up by the boot straps and keep on going on, which helped me focus and work my butt off at Longwood in order to transfer to Virginia. YOU are the one who also wouldn't let me quit anything half-way through, which is the reason I took piano lessons for over 10 years AND the reason I'm enduring this treatment now. I could go on and on about the life lessons YOU provided me and all the ways in which you've consistently come through for me throughout my life.
I know that my diagnosis broke your heart, that my search for a treatment course left you frustrated (sorry, but I really did have to explore that less invasive option...), and that watching me go through all of this torments your soul a little each day but I want YOU to know that because of YOU, I'm okay. In fact, I'm more than okay. I'm actually great and I'm a heck of lot better off this Sunday morning knowing that I will overcome this hurdle and do something positive with it than if I'd never been tested in the first place. The way YOU raised me has allowed me to feel gratitude instead of bitterness (okay, I do have some bitter moments but who the heck wouldn't, right?) at the half-way point of my treatment.
So, thank YOU Dad, for everything. Thank YOU for loving me more than you love yourself. Thank YOU for not giving me everything you could possibly afford but rather for giving me the tools to build a great life for myself. Thank YOU so much for teaching me to be direct with people because God knows I would have never gotten that from the other side of the family. Thank YOU for your excellent example of a work ethic and your entrepreneurial spirit. Thank YOU being a constant presence in my life -- whether on the sidelines of the soccer field, in the auditorium of a music recital, or more recently, in my hospital room. Thank YOU for keepin' it real with lectures about proper car maintenance in the midst of all of this craziness. Thank YOU for telling me not to be afraid to walk around bald because "it's really no big deal these days." Thank YOU for threatening to kick the ass of anyone who makes fun of my bald head...and for really meaning it. In short, thank YOU for being the best father you know how, which, while not perfect, is pretty damn awesome.
Dad, similar to what I said to Mom on Mother's Day, I really hope that somehow I'll be able to make YOU a doting Grandad someday. (Too bad that me presenting you with a grandchild won't be as easy as when you surprised me with my Cabbage Patch doll at age eight...oh well.) YOU deserve that kind of joy and I really hope I can give it to you. And I really hope at least one of my children is a girl because while I know you like boys okay (and that you agree our friend Thomas S. is pretty neat), it's little girls who really melt your heart.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day!
How things change: My pigtails are long gone and that waistline of my dad's disappeared years ago, too.
A racey shot of the two of us! Notice whose mouth is closed and whose is open?
The whole family chilling out on the *lovely* couch after the hot tub. I look pretty cozy in my dad's arms, don't I?