A good portion of my childhood was spent worrying about my dad. Every night before I would go to sleep, I said my prayers with my mom. She would listen as I’d ask God to bless everyone I loved in life (and ocassionally a Cabbage Patch Kid which she’d admonish me for). I made sure to just give my dad a cursory blessing because I knew she didn’t like him. Instead, I’d wait until after she’d leave and I’d spend the next minutes until I fell asleep asking God to send extra special angels to protect my daddy.
He was a firefighter, and I’d spend hours worrying that he’d run into a burning building trying to save someone’s home only to be engulfed in the flames and leave my life forever. I’m not sure why I was quite so scared of this. As K once pointed out, my dad was a fire fighter in a small town with hardly any two story buildings, let alone towering infernos likely to envelop him in a smokey haze. If my dad has taught me anything though, it’s just how dangerous fire can be. I won’t even stick my hands through candle flames (despite seeing my friend’s hands come out unscathed time and time again), for fear of fire.
My dad always assures me he is not going to get hurt because he is good at his job. And I know he is good. He holds just about every master fire fighter certification there is. He’s an arson investigator. He teaches fire school all over the state. He’s even been invited to the National Fire Academy, not once but twice. He knows his fires and how to avoid getting hurt. Not that it matters though. Even in my early thirties, I still say those extra prayers, despite the fact he mostly just does paramedic work now, which means his expoure to burning buildings is mostly simulated in trainings he conducts for his departments.
Still, I’ve spent an awful lot of time worrying about my dad dying in a fire. Well, either from that or from lung cancer. He started smoking when I was seven. He quit when I was 15 and I was so proud of him. His lungs were well on their way to recovery and he was really starting to get healthy again (he didn’t even gain tons of weight as he substituted gum for cigarettes). Then my grandfather died and he just lost it. He started smoking at the funeral and hasn’t stopped puffing away in the last 11 years.
All of this is probably why when he called on Friday and told me he had a tumor on his kidney, I got the proverbial wind knocked out of me. It just didn’t make sense to me. I sat, unable to say anything more than, “ok” while he unfolded the story of finding blood in his urine and trips to the doctor. Although he kept repeating the fact that they weren’t sure what it was yet, that it hadn’t spread to his lymphatic system and that the doctor seemed very optimistic, it didn’t matter. I was eight years old again, lying on my top bunk praying silently for my daddy to be ok. My childhood fears were coming true. I might actually lose my daddy.
I’m trying really hard to stay upbeat and positive. He has no idea what it is yet. There is a good chance it’s just an annoying lump of tissue that likes his kidney, totally benign and all. Apparently my family has some sort of medical history of “fatty tumors.” But it’s a big tumor and he’s not exactly the healthiest guy in the world. I know it’s defeatest and all, but all I can think about is my son may never really know his granpa. I know many people would say I’m being a drama queen, and I no doubt am to some extent, but even though I’ve always worried about losing my dad, I never truly thought it would happen.
My fears were always assuaged by the fact that my dad is a hero. He’s invincible. He saves people. Including me. My daddy has always been my rock. He’s always protected me. I know that’s sort of the typical dad thing to do, you’d have to delve way into all the wounds of my childhood to truly understand just how amazing my dad is. We are close. Very close and I adore him. The thought of losing him, well, to be honest, I can’t even really bring myself to think about it because I just start crying. I’ve always known that when my dad dies, I am going to be inconsolable. I just never really thought I’d have to think about that reality at this point in my life.
I know I shouldn’t let myself get upset. I know I should try to be positive and wait until I know something before I get upset. Afterall there is a good chance I’m getting myself all worked up and becoming absolutely distraught only to find my self-induced drama laughable in a few weeks when my dad comes out of all this unscathed. It’s very true that I could be aganizing over nothing. However, right now all I want to do is curl up and hide underneath my warmest blanket. I feel eight years old again, wondering if the next phone call will bring my daddy’s voice or heartbreaking news.