My dad died 11 years ago today. He was 56. I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone by. My youngest was one, today she is 12. She never knew my dad and that makes me pretty sad. Carley doesn't remember him either, she was only 3.
He was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in Nov. of 1996. Here he is just 3 months prior to diagnosis (with me and my mom and my 5 month old, Catherine):
The doctors told him he had 3-6 months to live. He chose not to do Chemo or radiation, he wanted to have the best quality of life for his remaining few months. He did seek out some alternative remedies, and I think they helped him make it to the 6 month mark. My parents lived in Florida at the time, and I lived in IL. I was able to get down and see him twice before he died. We went down in December and again in March.
He died near midnight on the night of May 31st. I wasn't there when he died, my sister and my brother were. I had a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I was still nursing my 1 year old. I wanted to be there, but my mom and sister told me I couldn't bring my girls, that it would be too stressful on everyone. He was in and out of coherent near the end, but I did have my mom put the phone up to him and told him I was sorry I couldn't be there. I just couldn't leave my girls. I think he understood.
I didn't always have the best relationship with my dad growing up. He could be a mean son-of-a-gun when he wanted to be. But most of the time he was pretty reserved and rather jovial. He liked to read and passed that love to me. He taught me to play chess. Life was simple for my dad and he had clear boundaries of right and wrong. He was a staunch conservative and I thank him for those values. I never had a very emotional relationship with my dad, we never told the other we loved each other, although we did hug and kiss. I remember when I was really small he used to carry me to bed on his shoulders each night. And I remember even into high school kissing him good-night before bed.
Here he is on a Fathers Day when I was about 20 (that's me on the right):
Just before he died I wrote him a letter. I wanted him to know that I although I had blamed him in the past for screwing me up, that I no longer did and that I knew he had done the best he knew how in raising me. He had a horrible childhood with a very abusive father. His childhood was worse than mine. I thanked him for being my dad and told him I loved him. I waited for a reply and finally my mother called me and told me that my dad had read the letter and cried. My dad and I never spoke about the letter and we didn't need to. He heard what I said, it made him cry, that was enough for me.
Time lessens pain but doesn't remove it. I don't think about him everyday anymore, but I do think about him frequently. And I still remember the day he died. Most of all I look forward to seeing him again one day.
Here's a picture of my dad and mom in the bar in the house I grew up in. They had their issues, but I always knew they loved each other: