This Time of Year

Dad,

You’ve been gone for about a year and a half now. I still cannot fathom that. It’s too weird. I can still hear your laugh, your voice, and remember your smell.

This time of year is especially difficult. Three years ago, you found out you had inoperable pancreatic cancer. They found it early, so there was a good chance you could have lived through it. The plan was to shrink the tumor with chemo, then surgically remove it. So chemo it was, for a year.

Starting in December of 2011, you had chemo treatments twice a month? I don’t remember now. You would go to Mayo with Sindy and come home to Omaha. Back and forth, for months.

Little by little, I saw the treatment take its toll on you. You had less and less of an appetite, and you lost a lot of weight. But you sounded totally fine on the phone. I think that’s why it surprised me so much when I saw you. Nevertheless, it was always good to see you.

It was good to see you even when you were confined to a hospital bed for four months. I came to visit you in December 2012, when you were hospitalized due to some viral infection. Funny, though, that the team of doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center seemed to have no idea what it was that was affecting you so much.

I remember getting a call from Sindy, who was hysterical after speaking to the asshole doctor in charge of the AICU. The doctor had said that he didn’t think you were “going to make it” right in front of you, while you were awake. For the record, I met that guy, and I fucking hate him. I know it’s not his fault that you were sick or that you passed, but he’s an asshole and should not be a doctor of anything.

Anyway, I was in Wisconsin with Nick on Christmas day, and Sindy called to tell me that you were going to die. As soon as I hung up with her, I called Hank. He said, “you should probably go home. We’re on our way now.” So Nick and I left Fond du Lac, WI at midnight Christmas day (I guess it would have been the next day) to come see you. We drove eight hours to Omaha, and I remember having a completely asinine argument with my mother about how she wanted me to come see her on her birthday before going to see you in the hospital. Mom has some serious issues. But you know that.

Before we got to the hospital, we decided to stop for coffee (because, well, the drive). So I suggested we go to Delice to get some eclairs for you, too. I know how much you like sweets.

When we arrived in your room at the hospital, I remember being so happy to see you and so sad at the same time. It was so hard to see you suffer. But I handed you the bag of eclairs, and I had to chuckle when you said, “Oh God bless you.” It was hard for you to eat, though, because you had lost a lot of feeling in your fingers, and your heart was working really hard because of all the weight you had lost.

After we chatted with you, Hank, Carrie, and Sindy for a little while, Nick and I went to Mom’s to see her for her epic birthday. I don’t remember much else from that day, other than the fact that I didn’t really eat anything, so I got really lightheaded and almost blacked out at the hospital later in the afternoon. Carrie found some broth packets (the kind that you just add hot water to) and gave me that to sip on. I had to lie on the floor with my feet above my head until my blood sugar came up enough. I think we left the next day to go back to Wisconsin.

The next four months began a new chapter of a difficult part of a lot of people’s lives. I came to see you in January, and stayed for three weeks. I went home to my husband, worked at a coffee shop, and tried not to worry about you. I can’t even describe the constant worry and sense of impending doom I felt that entire time.

In April, Nick went TDY to Maryland for a few days. On Friday, April 19th, I had been watching tv on the couch after lighting Shabbat candles with Carlos. I had also made plans with my friend Erin and her boyfriend to go out later that night to a wine bar we all liked. At about 8:15 pm, I got a text from Sindy saying you were going into kidney failure. I stood up with my phone in hand, and was simply at a loss for what to do or say. I looked around, down at Carlos, at my phone for answers. But there were none. Not a single one. I called Hank. When he answered, I said, “What do we do?” But I didn’t ask it. I demanded it. I had to know right then and there, what the answer was. He said what I knew he was going to say, “I don’t know. I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t think we’ll make it there before it’s too late. But Carrie and I are leaving now.”

I just didn’t know what to do. Nick was still out of town, due back the next day or Sunday, and I had plans to go out with my friend. I texted her and told her I didn’t think I felt like going out. She called me and asked what was going on. I told her and she managed to get me to come stay with her that night. I needed that more than anything. She stayed up with me until two or three that morning, and we drank wine and ate chocolate from the Walgreens down the street.

At five o clock in the morning, so about two hours later, I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I came back to bed, I saw I had a text. It said, “Your father just passed.” I was in total disbelief. I just sat there. I didn’t wake anyone up, I didn’t call anyone. For four hours, I just sat there and on the couch. I spoke to Sindy on the phone around 8:30. Erin came downstairs around 9. She asked who I was talking to, and I told her. She asked how she was doing, and I said, “Well, my dad just died last night, so…” and before I could even finish my sentence, she lunged at me and wrapped me up in the strongest hug I had ever felt. I almost spilled my coffee on her.

She held me for several minutes and was just there for me.

That day, we did nothing but walk around downtown and drink. We did the same thing later that night. We got wasted and walked home, and it started raining. I was beyond sad and she told how proud of me she was and that you were.

A few days later, I flew home for your memorial service and to be with Hank, Carrie, Sindy, and Mom. We buried your ashes in a plot at a cemetery in Millard.

There’s more that follows, of course, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, it does, but the point is that you’re gone, and you can’t come back, and I miss you more than I could ever express in words. It’s just too hard sometimes. It means no more holidays with you, no more birthdays. No more sharing big events with you. I know it’s a selfish way to look at it, but it’s how I feel. You won’t get to see my kids, if I ever have any. You won’t get to see me graduate college, or start my first real job. I know you’re proud of me, but that’s just not enough. I miss you. That’s all. Life is less without you. Just less. Not as good. Not as bright. Not as sweet. Not as fun.

There were so many people at your memorial service, Dad. Every single one of them had nothing but good things to say about you. That doesn’t surprise me at all. You are wonderful. And the world is less without you.

I love you forever. My heart is broken. I hope I get to see you again someday.

Love,

Kathryn

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