June 20, 2017

i just want one more day


Dear God, please let everything turn out okay. Please teach me how to be better. A better person, a better girlfriend, a better daughter, a better woman. Give me the strength I need to face the hardships life is throwing my way right now. 

I penned that prayer sitting in the parking lot of the VA Hospital in Milwaukee, 4 days after my dad told me he had cancer. I felt so tense, so bottled up and ready to explode at any minute. 

Fear took my hand and said, "Come with me. I'll keep you safe."

I should have looked the other way and ran in the opposite direction.

All I could think about in the moment was that when we found out for sure my grandma had cancer, three weeks later she was gone. Three weeks. 21 days. That's all it took for her to take her last breath. In a lot of ways, when we found out about my dad's diagnosis, it still felt like I was hearing for the time, "Grandma has cancer."

Only this time, my mind went to the dark place instead of the happy one. 

I had too many things to do with my dad before he was taken away from me.

He was supposed to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was supposed to swing me around the dance floor for just one song, like we did so many years ago during the Girl Scout's Daddy-Daughter Dance where we ate chocolate cake with vanilla frosting (his favorite). He was supposed to be here for his eventual grandbabies, ready to love on them like his parents never took the opportunity to do with me. 

I hate that he downplayed how serious the situation was... How absolutely serious his diagnosis was. I didn't even find out what type of cancer he had or how far along it had progressed until after he died. The last time I saw him, I told him how scared I was. How much the fear around my heart threatened to collapse everything like the London Bridge falling down in nursery school. It's hard for me to think of that memory. My dad telling me with a stormy sense of calm in his voice, "Don't worry about me, Anna. I'll be fine."

I looked at him and said, "Dad, I'm a worrier. It's what I do."

He nodded and said, "I know." And then a nurse came in to take his vitals.

It all feels so incomplete. I want a myriad of days that I know I will never get back. No second chances, no "do over's" like when we would set up my Hot Wheels tracks going from my bedroom out into the hallway and the cars would jump out of the loopty-loop before completing it. No more mornings where he'd throw my Cheerios milk out for the birds and come back in so we could watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Barney & Friends before he took me to the babysitter's.

We won't get anymore garage days, smoking cigarettes and complaining about Wisconsin winters. No more out of the blue phone calls inviting me over for dinner. No more selfies every time we saw each other. No more cheesy Facebook messages telling me to sleep good and rest up for a good day at work. No more actually looking forward to Iola Car Show Weekend, because being busy at work for four days straight was totally worth being able to see my dad for a few hours all weekend.

Knowing these things now live only in my memory is one of most heartbreaking facts of life. Everything ends. Eventually. Nothing can stop it. Not man, not money, not even love can stop it. Everything is only temporary. Even us. It's all about what we do with the time we're given. We have to make it count.

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