In the past year, I’ve lost both of my parents.
Summer of 2008, a day after I received my Just Like Hell comp copies, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer.Â The doctors started him on chemo, and five weeks later, we learned the chemo wasn’t helping.Â He was given two weeks to live, but he only lasted half that time.
He remained in high spirits, but a few days before he finally died, I saw him give up.Â The two of us were eating chocolate sheet cake (his favorite) in the living room.Â he took two bites, frowned, and grumbled, “I can’t taste anymore.”Â He set the cake aside, closed his eyes, and I never saw him open them again.
I wasn’t supposed to like my dad. He was quiet, friendly, and easy-going, but he also moved to Florida a month before my high school graduation.Â He barely ever called or wrote, and our conversations were stilted, clumsy affairs at best, and they reminded me of how clumsy and stilted I am in public, how terrified I am of people and how much I live in my own head.Â I didn’t really get to know him until he moved to Texas a few years before his death. I’m very grateful for those years, when I finally realized that I loved my dad.
Almost a year to the day my father was diagnosed, doctors diagnosed my mother with liver cancer and gave her four-to-six months.Â Again, they started chemo right away, and again, it was eventually determined that said chemo wasn’t working.Â My mother lasted six days after she was told, catching pneumonia and falling victim to it.Â Terrible, but better than the three more months of wasting away the doctors had given her.
I talked to my mother three times after she was diagnosed as terminal.Â The first two were clumsy, stilted conversations that involved me trying to keep things light while I talked to this woman who was dying a minute at a time.Â The third conversation took place after she’d been hospitalized on Saturday.Â It was tough to understand her through her oxygen mask, but I got her to chuckle by telling her some stupid joke, and I told her twice that I loved her.Â A few hours later, I’m told she closed her eyes and ever opened them again.
I love my mother, this over-protective woman who wished a nasty death on every girl whom refused to date me, this woman I never told about my new motorcycle because she would have spent hours crying about my imminent death.Â Now, she’s gone, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting her birthday or calling every week so she won’t think I’m mad at her, and for some reason that just doesn’t feel real to me.
My mother and father are dead, and I don’t know how I feel.Â There’s a mixture of sadness and relief, I think.Â And fear.Â And a desire to close myself off from everything else in the world.Â I don’t want anybody else close to me to die.Â I don’t want to experience that again.
I’m 32.Â Neither of my parents made it past 72.Â My life could be half-finished.
My oldest brother is in his fifties.
All I can think of is how desperately I want all of us to live.Â Not survive, but live.
I’m going to spend the rest of the day writing and riding and holding Shawna, because those are the things I love to do.Â In two days, I have to go to a funeral.Â That’s two days in the future, though.Â In two days, I can grieve.
Right now, I want to live.