Today marks five years since my father’s passing. Let me tell you what I’d rather be doing than talking about him in the past tense.
I’d love to talk to him. Maybe he could share his wisdom on so many current events. Perhaps he would tell another story from his life or give us a funny rendition of one of the many songs he loved. Papa loved to laugh and bring joy to others. He had a special way with words that I believe influenced my own love for them.
If he were here, my children would have good memories of playing with him. As it is, T barely remembers him and D doesn’t know him at all except for pictures. When Papa came to visit us for the last time, he often called her by my name, no doubt from fond memories of my childhood.
I wish I could hold his hand, with its carefully squared, evenly filed nails, so much bigger than mine. What would I give to slip my hand in his once more and tell him I love him?
But instead, I have memories of watching him waste away to the evil disease that cancer is. Others loaded his too-still body into the oven. Turning the knob on the cremation oven … haunts me, even though the gentleman at the funeral home set my fingers and K’s over the knob, then covered them and did the deed for us. It was the single worst moment of my life, an act that still feels like I committed an unforgivable crime.
What I’d rather be doing is not focusing on the guilt of not trying harder to make him go to the doctor. By the time he was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, it was too late for modern medicine to save him.
Colonoscopies save lives. They catch polyps before they turn to cancer. The recommended age for initial colonoscopies continues to drop. It’s now 45 for the general population and 40 if you have a family history.
I completed my first colonoscopy in the very month I turned 40. I was not willing to live with the uncertainty and the feeling of failure I felt from not being able to convince Papa to go for one. Maybe if I’d been more convincing … if I’d shown up and scheduled the appointment for him … maybe I could have saved him.
So now, instead of making happy memories, I’m begging you to schedule all of your preventive care exams. You know what I’d rather be doing.