This should have been my dad’s 88th birthday. Unfortunately, the genetics on my dad’s side of the family don’t seem to mirror that of my mom’s, or at least the women on my mom’s side. My dad died way too young; it’s just weird thinking I’m living through a time in my life that my dad never saw. In my mind, my dad will always be older and wiser than me. But he never got the chance, passing on May 25th, 1988, not quite getting to his 57th birthday.
He did, at least, get to spend some time with my daughter, Becky, who has born 4 months prior. It was a big thing, sneaking her into my dad’s room at Kaiser Hospital here in Redwood City, shortly before he died. Might have even been the night before.
I still have days where I feel like he’s around and I need to run something past him. More often are the times when you wish he was here. After 30 years, those times occur less often, but there are many triggers that bring those memories back to life. I remember very strongly a bike ride I took after hearing from his doctor that he had, if I recall correctly, about 4 months to live. I was riding through Portola Valley, descending Alpine towards Arastradero when it really hit me. This wasn’t hypothetical in any way, shape or form. There was an end game in play and nothing I could do to change it. You grow up believing that success is at least partly defined by being able to change outcomes, and this was an outcome I couldn’t affect.
Pre-Google, I couldn’t even go wild with research; you’d hear about quack cancer cures (laetril anyone?) and clinics in Mexico that desperate people would spend both their hope and money on, because someone had written a story about miracles happening and how could you not want to believe? I remember all that. And I remember in the last month, when the doctor told us it was time to discontinue treatment, and I’m thinking how can you do that? How can you give up all hope like that? But I realized that any treatment at that point would have been because of my need to do something, as opposed to doing something that might make a difference.
Of course, as long as I can remember my dad, he’s still with me.