My Dad (BakoHeat) can’t stop talking. He was a salesman so he never really stopped talking when I was a kid but in this case, it’s because of the massive tumor inside his head. The large mass that is putting pressure on his brain, turning him into half the guy I knew and a child that I’m not sure I ever wanted to meet. But this is what the end of life looks like. With only months to live, he is sitting across from me, asking what the time it is for the 10th time in literally 10 minutes. Sentences are short and you are left with trying to guess the topic. It’s like scenes from Memento and Rain Man. I have no idea how he is dealing with it even with barrage of pills meant to keep him comfortable. But moments in the day, when the tumor subsides because the heavy dose of steroids kicks in, a mental haze is lifted and he’s back for a few minutes.
It’s in these moments, that I find the last few life lessons of a man I’ve watched almost my entire life. From his achievements to his mistakes, to my resentment of him as a teenager to my love for him as an adult, what I see now, is a man pissed off about dying but at the same time, appreciating everyone that has passed through his life. His wife Amy, who he met later in life, he tells her 10 times an hour how much he loves her and how wonderful she is. He says she is the best thing to ever happen to him and he’s right. His other 3 children who he brags about how well they’ve turned out and how much he loves them. He even touches on his relationship with my Mom which was a painful ending but part of a life that he cherishes. When we all wonder if someone is telling us the truth sometimes, everything he says that is coherent, you know is the truth. His capacity to lie or even fib, has been stripped away. When he gives me a big smile and tells me how much he loves me, you know it’s for real. When Amy brings him his favorite BBQ sandwich and he looks like he just won the lottery, you know it’s for real. His world is now confined to three rooms and a few windows but his view on life, his appreciation for a life lived is bigger than any view any of us now have. Here’s a few lessons, I learned from him along the way:
– Keep a sense of humor . When the diagnosis came, he was mad and still is, but he didn’t let the tumor define him. He still kept his sense of humor. He found it hilarious that his doctors at Cedar Sinai where named, Dr. Hu, Dr. Hugh, and Dr. Ho. He didn’t stop living, being sarcastic, finding the irony in his situation.
-There’s always an upside. Being the salesman that he was for most of his life, he learned how to take “no,” move on and find a new upside. He always kept moving forward no matter life threw at him. You can feel sorry for yourself, but that’s wasted energy.
-Be a Dreamer and a Doer. He was always working on a new idea whether for work or to just feed his soul. He was a musician his entire life but later became a writer, a novelist and mentored younger kids who were aspiring writers. But before you can do any of that, you have to have a dream and most important, start doing it.
-It’s never to late to nurture love and forgiveness. If you live to be 74 years of age, all of our lives will be filled with a little bit of everything: triumphs, losses, regrets, but at the end of our lives, it’s about the people. The people that pass through it. The ones that you want to keep in your life, make sure you feed those relationships. We all have people in our lives that we know we should have given more. They deserved more of our attention. Finally, forgive and ask for forgiveness. Don’t keep the negative energy in your soul. We all have regrets but if you dwell on them, you are not living.
-Life is complicated, but you don’t always need to make it so. Dan is my Stepfather. He came into my life when I was around 6 and he and mom married but then divorced when I was around 20. He was my only Dad. Like every father/son relationship we had our ups/downs and when they imploded, it could have been easy for him to walk away and end our relationship because he was mad with my mother. But he didn’t and we stayed in each other’s lives for the next 25 years. He watched me get married, have children. He didn’t have to do any of that, but he kept it simple and, kept loving me.
A few thoughts about a man who has very few thoughts left. Some day, we will all be there, half-adult, half-child, speaking unfiltered truths. The only time he gets upset is when he picks up the paper and reads the headlines. You can take a guess why.