On my wedding day, I remembered how lucky I was that dad had made it through his kidney cancer in 1999. I felt lucky that he could walk me down the aisle and dance with me at the wedding. I am thankful Kevin and I went to my dad's favorite place in Upstate New York with my parents last summer after we got married. I am thankful that I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my parents last year especially since I never suspected it was my last chance to spend the holidays with both of them.
I am thankful that my dad wasn't working for the six months before his diagnosis. Even though he was depressed about not being able to find another job, he was still able to spend that time with mom and their friends and enjoying the outdoors. During that time, my parents visited us in our Brooklyn apartment shortly after my birthday, and Kevin and I treated my parents to dinner for their 25th wedding anniversary. Before dad began treatment we had a dinner at home that he was able to enjoy. After he started treatment I remember being thankful even at the time for the opportunity to make him a sandwich. If you are lucky enough to have your parents or children you love, please do everything you can to make them happy while they are healthy -- whether it is big or small.
I am grateful that after his diagnosis, Kevin took me to every appointment dad had with a doctor or procedure he had done. When I couldn't make it because of work, Kevin went without me. Every weekend that we didn't have a close friend's wedding to attend we spent with my parents in New Jersey. He helped me with talking to doctors and calling insurance. He did innumerable favors for my parents and continues to do so for my mother. He is truly a son to both of my parents. I might spend the rest of my life making it up to him for how wonderful he is. We had no idea that my dad would only have 4 months but I am so glad that there is very little we would have done differently if we had known.
I am grateful that my mother was at my father's side every single day since his diagnosis. There was rarely a day she didn't spend 10-12 hours or more at his side. Knowing she was there and that he had her to take care of him was an amazing comfort to me. Everything she did, she did just for him and no one else, but what an amazing gift she gave all of us who love my father. She was smart and strong for both of them. Anyone who has been through cancer or a loved one's illness knows that a great deal depends on the patient's support system. Someone has to be there to ask a million questions and fight for their loved ones- whether it be with insurance companies, pharmacies, doctors, or errant nurses. He had wonderful nurses and PCAs when he was on the oncology floor at Valley Hospital, but my mother still learned their jobs and tried to personally do everything for my dad herself. I assure you there is no better nurse than my mother caring for someone she loves. I am happy to have my mother in my life, and proud that she is so intelligent, strong, and loving. I hope to live up to be the kind of woman that she is.
I am relieved that my mother and I never left my father alone during the last week of his life. Once the doctor told us that the tumors had grown on Sunday the 14th, my mother started staying overnight so that dad wouldn't be lonely or afraid or suffer any pain or discomfort that she could prevent. I stayed at least 10 hours a day. One of dad's last meals was his favorite chocolate milkshake that I bought him and mom fed him. I gave him his last glass of water. We told him we loved him hundreds of times in four months in as many ways as we knew how. I am so glad I told him he was a wonderful father.
I am grateful to the friends that visited and helped, especially my mother's friend Onel. Thankful forever to my friends that came to visit to help me personally, and to the few that sent food. It's hard to tell people what they can do for you when your world is falling apart; what a blessing for friends that do whatever they can think of to help.
I am really grateful that Kevin and I will have someone else to love soon and that we will be parents. Though I really wish people would stop saying that it somehow makes up for the loss of my dad. It doesn't. On the contrary, dad was at his best with children. How sad that our child will never know such a wonderful grandfather, and that we can never have visits or holidays all together.
With my parents in Upstate NY in 1988
On the Cape in 2001
On the Cape in 2003
On the Cape in 2004
In New Jersey in 2007, the day after Kevin proposed
In New Jersey in 2008
On the Cape in 2009