Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “June 5, 2022”

A Letter To My Father


As an adult child of divorce, I have done all that I can, in my current divorce, also involving children, to prevent any and all issues that I experienced as a child that were negative. Issues from back then, still carry with me to this day. And as I prepare to celebrate the graduation of my oldest daughter, one of those memories has come to the front of my mind, and refreshed the emotions of that time.

My father and I made up years after my graduation. But we rarely talked about the past, the “why”, “when”, and “who” of those memories. I cannot talk to my father anymore, as he passed away years ago. I wish this was one of the things we could have talked about.

Dad,

I need to talk to you. We should have had this conversation long ago. But you are gone now. And I am at a period in my life, though I know is too late, where I wish we had done something different.

Your granddaughter is graduating from high school next week. And I know that you will be looking down from the heavens, watching over her, as proudly as I will be.

But as special as this moment is, especially for her, it has brought up a time in our lives, between you and I, that if we had the chance to go back, I believe we would have done differently or at least should have. Because to be quite honest, this time period, nearly forty years ago, a decision was made by both of us, that lasted your lifetime, and continues on with mine. And as hurtful as it was to me, I have used that pain, to make sure your granddaughter not only does not experience this same hurt, but have to live with it for years to come like I have.

This of course is all for naught, a memory that is clearly as fresh in my mind and heart today as it was back then. And though we made amends years later, the question of “why” still haunts me, now unresolvable. All I can do is make sure my daughter never feels this pain that I live with.

I get it Dad, divorce is hard. Nobody gets married with the plans of getting divorced eventually. But the divorce was between you and mom, not you and I. And having gone through divorce myself, I know it is not always the need or want to have discussions with an ex, but you did not divorce me, nor have I divorced myself from my children, and discussions needed to be had. There was no separation from father of child. So why were you not there?

After all the years of disappointments in my childhood by you, not being there, I gave you one last chance, a chance I did not feel you were entitled to, but I wanted to see, if one final moment, might have been enough to see if I meant anything to you, my graduation. You were given the ultimatum, and one ticket for the graduation. “Show up, or I never want to see you again. I will never allow you to disappoint me again.”

You never came. No card. No telephone call. You lives ten minutes away from me for Christ’s sake. NOTHING! And that is what I took away from that. I meant nothing. I would never allow myself to feel that way again. Yet here I am, all these years later, still feeling that wound as if it was yesterday.

As angry as I was back then, I have actually been able to do something good from that anger. The decision that you made, would be my driving factor, to never hurt either of my daughters the same way.

My divorce has been hard on them. But the one thing I would never let them feel is that I ever gave up on them. Though I am afraid, I really underestimated how this would affect me in my future.

But there I was, watching your granddaughter, experiencing the first graduation of her two ceremonies in high school. As she entered the auditorium, I could see her looking around. I was seated four seats in from the aisle she was walking down. With total disregard of concern of embarrassing her, I yelled out her name. She did not hear it. I yelled it again. This time, her head swiveled, left to right, and then I know she saw me. A huge smile lit up on her face, and she gave me a wave similar to the wave of a Miss America contestant. That is what I wanted and needed to experience. That is what you took from me.

Dad, though I have broken this cycle, it does not take away the pain from years ago. And though we made our amends, and really, ended up closer than we possibly could have imagined, it turns out, that hurt is still in my heart.

I was looking for you Dad in that gymnasium. I knew Mom was there, because she brought me. But as I looked for you, I could not see you, anywhere. You lived ten minutes from me. I live states away from my daughter. This day was everything to me. Her day is everything to me. And as your granddaughter experiences her high school graduation this week, just as last week, I will be there for her. Because I know how important this is to her, and just as important to me.

I just wish we could have done things differently.

Paul

National Cancer Survivor’s Day 2022


Unlike me in 1988, there is a pretty good chance that today, you know at least one person, touched by cancer, if not yourself.

Make this year number 32 for me, recognizing National Cancer Survivors Day (34 years if you count from the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). In many circles, a cancer survivor is anyone, in any stage of a diagnosis of cancer, even diagnosis. My father, upon learning of his lung cancer diagnosis, told his doctors, “I want to be a survivor, like my son.” And for a brief time, my father was a survivor. He lost his battle with cancer eight years ago. The fact is, I have had five other relatives who faced one type of cancer or another.

It is not always up to the survivor how long their fight will go on. To those in my family, I am the only known living survivor. Among my fellow survivors, who I also count as “family”, the numbers are much greater, and give me something to aspire to. I am talking about people who have survived four and five decades.

I have no idea what the key to my longevity has been. Physiologically, my body is a mess, destroyed from years of late developing side effects from my treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My diet, is horrendous partly in fact that I am a very picky eater but has not played any role really. Physically I do what I can, that my body will allow as far as exercise.

If there is one that I do know as a survivor, tomorrow is never guaranteed. Between the trauma of the cancer itself, along with the treatments, the body can only take so much. The question is how much. And there is just no way of knowing. So you live each day, like you may not have tomorrow. And if you are like me, there are a lot more tomorrows that I want to have, not just for me, but for those around me and in my life.

I try to make the best decisions that I can to keep the effects on my health to a minimum. Reduce stress. Learn limits. Accept what I cannot control. And then I do all that I can, to focus on the things that I want to be around for, that require me having more time, such as the futures of my daughters. If I were able to give credit in my decision making, it would definitely go to my daughters.

Hell, even trying to avoid getting sick, because my body would have a harder time fighting any virus, has been a challenge. But that determination, that focus, is what keeps me going. Is it a guarantee? Of course not. But it is something I can say at least I tried.

I could not be happier for my fellow survivors for being able to celebrate this day once again. And as we do, we remember our fellow survivors who have fallen over the years, their bodies no longer able to take anymore.

Cancer does not define me. But it has definitely played a major role in making me who I am today. I do not know how many more of these days I have left. I know how many more years I need, and want. As I have no control, I can only take each one, one year at a time.

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