Writing About My Father, Day 15

My father is dying. Despite radiation therapy and months of chemotherapy, the cancer continues to bloom throughout his body as if he is a fallow field made ready for planting. I do not hate my father. I do not want him to die like this, slowly colonized by rebellious cells who care not for who he is but only who they want him to be. I want my father to fight, but he has never been a fighter. He is good at many things, and that’s what he sticks to, what he’s good at, what comes easy. He does not want to do what might make him suffer—like eat—but it’s only in suffering that he can live, or at least live a little while longer. (But who am I to demand that he suffer?)

I do not like to do the hard things, either. I want to do what comes easy. It is easy to be angry with my father; I have much proof that I am justified. It is even easy to have compassion for him in his illness. Despite my anger, there isn’t any joy in watching what he’s going through. What is hard is to keep writing, to keep poking at the wound of our relationship despite the fact that it makes me feel mean, callous. Despite the fact that it makes me feel that, like the cancer, I want him to be only who I want him to be, not who he is. It is hard to love him as he is, a man who didn’t fight for me, a man who doesn’t seem to want to fight for himself. But perhaps it’s only in my suffering, in my unflinching gaze at who he is and at the ways I am of him, that he can live. Not as villain, not as betrayer or deserter, but as my father who loves me in whatever ways he can. if I keep fighting to look and to write and to let myself feel these hard words, I know that the father I will find can be enough.

Posted on November 17, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Paulette, this breaks my heart. You wrote so eloquently about what it’s like to watch a loved one suffer with cancer, and also what it’s like to carry the burden of your relationship with that loved one. There’s so much compassion in your writing.

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