Michael Di Gesu is hosting the Big C bloghop. The stories will be published in an anthology to help pay the medical costs for Melissa Bradley's cancer treatment. I am proud to be included, even though my story is a day late. I hope you enjoy it. It's dedicated to my daidí (daddy).
Cancer and the Whoopee Cushion
“It’s cancer,” Dad’s voice sounds steady and unwavering.
Mine, on the other hand, is as shaky as the California ground I’m standing on. After listening to him explain the chemotherapy versus radiation, I finally manage to say something. “I’m coming home. I’ll grab a flight out asap, Dad.”
After I hang up, I call my husband.
“You should go. I hold the fort down here.”
“Then it’s settled,” I mumble.
I make reservations and pack my bag. Before I know it, my plane lands in my hometown, Key Largo Florida.
I check my face in the mirror before moving off the plane. Red, swollen eyes, won’t do. I grab a wipe from my purse and clean my face with it before snapping my purse shut and trudging down the ramp.
There’s Dad. Shaking his head at me.
“Last one off the plane. It figures.” He smiles and pats me on my back. He’s still my dad−still so strong. How could he have cancer? He’s never been sick a day in his life.
The treatments begin right away. There is no time to lose when you’re facing the big C, Dad’s doctor says.
Dad has always been a stout Irishman living life to its fullest. He’s the go to person in our family when someone needs a boost. But as I look at him now going through the chemo he seems so fragile. Like he could break.
“Dad, eat a little more than that,” I urge him on. But it doesn’t work.
“Sorry, honey. No appetite.”
Day after day we traipse into the cancer center for his treatment. Night after night he’s in the bathroom throwing up.
And I clean. Because he’s my dad. I scrub the bathroom at least five times a night. While he goes back to bed, I sit on the floor and feel the cold sweat mixed with warm tears seeping down my face. I call my husband for comfort. He always says the right things.
Dad’s skin is the color of paste. He is a shell of his healthy self. I thought the treatments were supposed to make him better. I suck it in and smile at him. He needs to see a positive attitude.
It gets harder and harder to do that. But I keep on.
Until finally, the chemo ends.
I wait to see if he regains his strength before deciding when to fly home.
He doesn’t. Not really.
But the thing that amazes me is his sense of humor. He’s still pulling the same jokes on me that he always did when I was a kid. He’s made great use of the whoopee cushion.
He still tells his endless stories about the good old days.
He still chuckles in that same way he always has, and the most important part is his eyes still have that sparkle. Never mind the pasty skin. Those eyes of his still gleam when he looks at me.
I dub Dad my inspiration. He is serious about kicking cancer.
He wakes up early and brings me breakfast in bed.
I hear him humming during the day, so I start singing our favorite song Danny Boy. The next thing I know we’re dancing through the living room.
“I wonder if the neighbors hear our shenanigans?” I ask him.
“Don’t mind if they do,” he says.
Every day we dance through the house singing Danny Boy at the top of our lungs. Never mind that we can’t sing. We think we can.
Every trip back to the doctor brings news we’d rather not hear. But it doesn’t affect our dispositions. We stop at a restaurant and have coffee and pie, and he tells me his stories. I map them out in my head. I don’t want to forget any of them.
He laughs his Irish belly laugh and the entire restaurant turns and stares. Dad doesn’t even notice.
We take walks in the rain.
We buy balloons and write notes to God and send the notes to Heaven.
We eat ice cream at three o’clock in the morning because we can.
Sometimes I think he’s cured. But even if he isn’t. He believes in his head that he is. So he has me believing it too.
He is beating the cancer one story at a time. Every time he tells another one he says he feels better than the day before.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I only see the glow in his face today. That’s enough.
My attitude gets better. Now I only scrub the bathroom once or twice a night. I always walk him back to his bed after washing his face, and I listen to his stories about the old days. Even though it’s dark, I can feel the sparkle in his eyes as he watches me double check for that whoopee cushion.