August 13, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
My parents divorced when I was five years old. I have no memories of living with them both. After the divorce, my dad just kinda disappeared for many years. I used to joke that I could have passed him on the street and not recognized him. (I used to carry around a Glenn Miller record album and tell people the guy in the picture was my dad. I didn't actually think my dad was Glenn Miller, he just looked a lot like I what I remembered of him.)
When I turned thirteen years old and started seriously butting heads with my mother, my dad resurfaced and started the hard, hard work of rebuilding his relationship with me. It wasn't easy, but he was vigilant and unwavering in his determination to make up the time we had lost. And you know what? It worked. I ended up living with my dad, and later my step mom, for most of my teenage years and then off and on through my twenties (what? I was a late bloomer. also, their house was fun. and they had a cleaning lady. and food.)
It was my dad who showed me the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables. He was the one who taught me to cook. To shop for steaks at the carnecerias and for fish at the Korean grocer. The pleasure of long dinner parties with too much food and too much wine. He taught me to take chances, but not too many. He taught me that I deserved (as much as anybody else) to eat ice cream out of Baccarat crystal bowls and drink champagne out of Lalique flutes. He introduced me to Hemingway and Vonnegut and Garcia-Marquez. When I had writerly aspirations, he read every word and never failed to fawn over each turn of phrase.
My dad's house was always the place my friends wanted to be. Not because I was there, but because he was. Everyone was welcomed with a bear hug and a shot of vodka. The sound of his raucous laughter still rings loud in the memories of everyone who's ever known him. He was the first man I ever really loved, and his love for me is ferocious and informs everything I do.
And he's dying.
Stage IV renal carcinoma. There's no treatment, our only job is to keep him comfortable.
When we heard it was cancer--but not yet what kind or how bad--Dash & I flew up (he and my beloved step mom moved to Oregon shortly after Dash was born) for a few days. We're going back next month, but it already feels like it's getting too late, like he's starting to fade away. His memory is going and he needs oxygen to breathe. He sleeps most of the day, and only wakes for maybe half an hour at a time. He hallucinates and doesn't seem to be able to tell what's real and what's not anymore. I didn't see any of this coming. My heart is broken.