Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Father's Daughter

Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. 
Don't lose faith. 
~Steve Jobs

My day today began with a radioactive breakfast.  I headed to the hospital for the bone scan on my shin.  To finally figure out what's wrong with me.  Why I am in pain.  Why I cannot run.  Sadly I am very familiar with this hospital as I spent many hours here in the recent years with my dad and grandma.  I haven't been in the hospital for me since I fell out of a tree when I was 7 years old.   I watched in the monitor as the radioactive crap flowed through my body.  It was actually pretty cool. As it hit my shin, it lit up like a Christmas tree.  Yeah, there's something, something going on there for sure.   

For some reason  after my tests were over I couldn't leave the hospital. Every time I had been here before I couldn't wait to leave. Many times I was leaving with a knot in my stomach.  Another doctor's appointment where my dad received bad news once again.   Another emergency visit where we thought is this the end? But, today, I needed to pause.  Reflect. I walked outside to a garden area and sat on a bench.  On another bench sat an elderly man.  Alone.  Visibly upset.  It broke my heart. I knew what this man was feeling.  I was there once. 

After my tests I decided to head out for a long bike ride in honor of my dad today. It was a gorgeous day.  Warm, sunny, clear blue skies.  A day my dad would have loved.  He was a private pilot.  Along the trail I pass a private airstrip in a local subdivision.  A private plane landed over me as I rode. Today would have been a perfect flying day.  A day when I was a kid where he would wake me up out of bed and say, "Wake up, Andrea.  We are flying to Wisconsin for breakfast."  <Love>  

Riding my bike today I remembered a funny story about my dad.  When I was home from college for a break we were heading to my sister's for some family function.  Just before we were ready to leave my dad announces that he will be riding his bike there.  Huh?  Um, what?  She lived 10 miles away. I couldn't remember the last time my dad was on a bike.  He wasn't someone who worked out.  He was overweight. But, at the same time he would jump in at any opportunity to do something athletic if challenged or asked. Or, maybe if he just felt like it.  A very, "What the hell.  Why not?" attitude. He was the guy in the belly flop contest, just because.  The parent who jumped in the parent relay at the swim meet and killed his leg. And, apparently he was the guy who without any recent working out decides to throw his 250lb body on a bike.  We were praying for those tires I tell ya! Dad made it to my sisters.  A little out of breath.  But, he did it.  I was quite proud of him.

Dad was a Chicago guy.  A tough guy.  He took risks.  Did fun things.  Did things just for the hell of it. He made his own wine.  (My sister and I stomped the grapes!) He played Santa in my pre-school.  He cooked a mean steak. He tended a killer garden. He swam with sharks. He flew a plane.  

I was not my dad.  At least I didn't think so.  I'm a girlie girl.  I like to wear 4 inch heels and short skirts.  My dad kind of got screwed out of having a little doode.  But, not really.  I was also a great tomboy too.  Yes, I was a ballerina, a figure skater, a cheerleader.  But, I also fished, climbed trees, played in the dirt, camped, raced the boys.  He pulled me in a pick up truck on a frozen lake with me on a sled behind yelling "faster daddy!  faster daddy!"  Yup, faster he went.  He threw me in the air across the pool as I screamed, "throw me higher!".  He snuck me in a casino at age 14.  And, he couldn't be prouder that I got in. Ha! 

When I said I wanted to live in St. Maarten with college friends the summer after my freshman year my mom suspected what the summer would be like and quickly said, "I don't think so"  Dad also suspected what the summer would be like and said, "sure".  I went.  When I asked if I could study abroad the next summer mom wasn't too keen on it.  Dad said he thought it sounded interesting and they would figure out a way they could afford it.  I went. When I told them I was planning on moving to Korea after college for a few months my mother said "No way".  My dad asked questions. More questions.  Then wished me well.  Off I went. 

I think dad would have been tickled with my little running journey.  He, sadly, never saw me start this silly ride.  But, I suspect he would have thought it was pretty cool.  While very supportive of my swimming while growing up, he was not really a fan of attending my meets.  I get that.  Swim meets are pretty boring.  But, he was there when it mattered;  State meets, U.S. National meets.   He never pressured me to do well.  Always made me feel it was ok no matter what. Mom doesn't get my running.  She has no clue what I'm doing. She can't understand why.  I'm pretty sure if I would have told him I was planning on running a marathon that he would say, "do it.".  And, I'm VERY sure he would come watch. 

I kind of liken me deciding to run a marathon to him jumping on a bike for a random 10 mile ride.  What the hell. Why not? 

Today is my dad's birthday.  Cancer ripped him from me 9 1/2 years ago.   He never thought he would die. No matter how bad it got, he just never gave up.  There had to be another option.  Another way.  Something.   He was NOT GOING TO DIE.  Cancer ravaged his brain.  Cancer sucked the breath out of his lungs. Cancer weakened his muscles.  Cancer eventually took his leg.  But, Cancer never took his will to live. Ever. 

On the day he died I suspected this was it.  He, however, did not.  Eventually, though,  the breathing became too difficult for him.  So, me, his little baby girl, gave him morphine shots throughout the night to help ease the suffering. I would let him go.   It was time. But, I would not let him go in pain.  My mom and sister fell asleep on the floor beside his bed.  I sat next to him, holding his hand.  Telling him it was ok. It was ok to go.   With his favorite music, Meatloaf's "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" playing in the background, he finally was ready to finish the race.   And, then, he was gone. 

There were days in my marathon training where I just couldn't go on. Where mentally I was spent. Where physically I couldn't take another step.  I look back at that now and think how weak I was.  My dad never gave up.  Ever.  Shame on me for quitting.  For letting my mind tell me I could not go on.  For not getting up for those early runs, and instead sleeping in.  Because I was scared.   I bet my dad was scared. Hell yeah. Cancer is a hell of a lot scarier than a marathon.  26.2 miles versus Cancer?  No contest.  

I hope my dad is proud of me for my effort to run the marathon.   I surely gave it everything I had for as long as I could, both mentally and physically. I was mentally at the end of my rope when my body finally gave out. Dad wasn't the most demonstrative guy with love.  However, as he was near the end there  he did tell me how very proud he was of me.  For taking care of him.  For being there for him. For helping him fight.   For loving him. 

I will run that marathon one day.  I will not quit.  I will fight.  Because my dad never quit.  He fought his marathon to the finish. 

 First,  I need to add a song to my marathon training running mix......

Fight on. LiveStrong.  Run on.

Suck it Cancer. 


  1. What a beautiful post Andrea. This is quite touching and I know your Dad would be quite proud of everything you have accomplished. I know it's been a rough day for you on several accounts, and writing this probably wasn't a walk in the park either. Thanks for sharing. Oh yeah...suck it cancer!

  2. Oh Andrea, my heart is breaking for you. This post I so touching and beautiful. There are so many people, myself included, that don't have wonderful things to say about their fabulous father so please continue to cherish every lovely memory you have and know how very lucky you were to have this man in your life when you did. I along with everybody else who loves you, will make sure that you fulfill this commitment to run your marathon. And he will look on proudly as you do. Big hugs.

  3. That was a great post Andrea. Cancer took my uncle earlier this year and I freaking hate it. Your recap is still so vivid and heartfelt. Thanks for sharing. You rock!

  4. This is absolutely beautiful. I cried while I was reading this. Cancer is going down. It seems like you had a wonderful relationship with your dad and he is surely proud of everything you do.

  5. Andrea, I was so touched by this post i had to break it in two to get through it. My uncle, was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We are in the midst of it all. Keep on running! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thanks everyone for your wonderfully kind words. @ Aileen I am so sorry to hear about your uncle. My thoughts are with you. Keep on running as well. It helps.

  7. I'm quite sure your dad is still very proud of you, possibly even more than ever.

    He sounds like a man I would have enjoyed meeting very much, and he had great taste in music. Peace to you and thank you for sharing this.