April 6, 2009. Cancer Survivor.
Those are the only words in my Dad's latest church newsletter that I read with anything more than a glance. They leapt out at me from the goldenrod paper and they suddenly cracked me wide open. It's been a long time since words about – or from – my father have had that effect on me but as I read his tiny column of words meant for his congregation I saw a bit of humanness in his words. And I was amazed that he recalled the date of his cancer diagnosis. April 6, 2009.
Does everyone recall the date of their diagnosis? Hearing those words while sitting in a sterile doctor's office, or hospital room, must crack every single life routine wide open. Exact phrases vary, but there are three words carry the pronouncement nobody knows how to hear – You. Have. Cancer.
And suddenly, I realized with my heart instead of my head that those words were spoken to my dad. My daddy – who I waited for every day of my preschool life by sitting on the back steps of our house on Pasedena Drive with my tiny transistor radio that was shaped like a phonograph, wiling away the time while being so excited for his return home. My daddy – who taught me to play basketball (never well, but that's on me not him), who built me a playhouse and taught me to swim. My daddy – who hid in the halls and jumped out to scare me, who came to my elementary band concerts and did pushups with me sitting on his back.
My daddy has cancer. And I don't know if he's a survivor or even if he's sick. I don't know if it's in remission or if it's spread. I don't know whether he's dying or really living.
But, thanks to his church newsletter writings I do know one thing – he remembers the exact date of his diagnosis. And, to me that communicates something very important. . . in all the ways that matter there is still a tenderness and humanity beneath the veneer of religion and ideology that have directed his every thought and action for so long.
I miss my daddy. And I know that anything – even cancer – can be redeemed if there is the healing of relationships and hearts.
His and mine.