A good friend of mine will be spending Father’s Day with her dad for the last time. He is dying. She recently asked me if I had any regrets or if I would have done anything different during my father’s last days. I was happy to tell her that I wouldn’t have done a goddamn thing different, and this includes not apologizing for calling him a selfish ass a couple of days before he died.
I was mad. I can’t have mad feelings around a dying person? The most important thing in any relationship, in my opinion, is the freedom to communicate in an honest and open way. I never took it for granted that I was able to say what was on my mind around my dad. He loved me. I never questioned it. And he knew how much I loved him.
He was fierce, but not stupid. One time, when a guy I was dating did something shitty, my dad said that the only reason he didn’t track the guy down and knock his fucking head off, was because it wasn’t worth jail time. He called the guy, “whale shit on the bottom of the ocean.” We sat on the deck together smoking cigarettes and seeing who could blow the biggest smoke ring while ripping off cuss combo insults to describe the prick that did me wrong.
Fuck-face, pin-dick, shit-sandwich…puff, puff, giggle!
He was proud. I can’t even tell you how many times he moved furniture – in a restaurant – so that I could do a quick back flip.
He was devoted. The man woke up at the crack of dawn and lugged his video camera to my cheer and dance competitions. He sat out in the cold, cheering me on. He did this for my brother’s sporting events too.
He was positive. I didn’t want to go to college. I didn’t think I could hack it. I wanted to go to beauty school. He said he wanted me to try college first and after I graduated, he’d pay for beauty school too. He just wanted me to have choices.
He was selfless. He took out a second mortgage on the house to pay for my brother and I to go to college.
He was a pain in the ass. Four days before he died, he insisted that his hospital bed be place smack dab in the middle of the family room.
He wanted to watch television in his favorite room, surrounded by his family and friends. Watching television helped him forget, just for a little while, that cancer was devouring his body.
I told him he was being a selfish ass, putting his deathbed in the heart of the house, making it impossible for anyone else to escape the cancer for even one goddamn minute. I was wrong. But I don’t regret what I said, because it was how I felt. My father expected me to be honest. It was all he knew from me, and since he knew that I often had difficulty thinking before I spoke, he knew that my words were related to the pain of losing his pain in the ass self. I know that he forgave me immediately, so it was easy to forgive myself.
The week before he died, we spend a lot of time just lying
in the bed and watching re-runs of Friends.
“How did I miss this show for so many years?” Dad
“Because you were watching Xena: Warrior Princess.” Me
“Well, that’s because it’s a very good show.” Dad
“You just watch it for the boobs. Could you BE any more obvious?” Me
“That too, Chandler Bing.” Dad
Dying is the most honest thing we do in this life. Death doesn’t lie. Death keeps its promises. When someone you love is dying, it’s certainly not a time to change things up, unless changing things up means making time with the dying person a priority, because death means business. Death doesn’t bluff, so you shouldn’t either.
No. I have no regrets.
I can’t remember how we spent the last Father’s Day. I’ve looked back in my journal, but I didn’t write about it. I was a young mother and summer was new. I did write about how good it felt to scream until my throat was raw after finding out his cancer had metastasized to his liver and that he had a few months, at best, left to live.
I’m so lucky to have had this man as my father. I’m so sad for my friend. But I am happy to know that the two of us can say that we were raised by men worth grieving. Even if your dad isn’t sick or old or dying, you don’t know if this will be the last Father’s Day you spend with him. So spend the day doing something you will remember.
You won't regret it.
Jack P. Kane, Sr. 1940 - 2003