Father’s Day is tomorrow. I have a love/hate relationship with these holidays, partly because, well, I know it’s not the easiest day for everyone. Many people have lost a parent, others have complicated relationships with a parent, and still others approach these days with a sadness that comes from wanting children and not having them.
Holidays: they bring stuff up.
My Dad is living. I’ve certainly written about him enough that you know I think the world of him. If you’d asked me about him on Tuesday, I would have told you he’s the strongest man I know. On Wednesday, we received news that only supported that firm belief.
We found out on Wednesday that my Dad has cancer again. He had a biopsy three weeks ago and when the results came back, they scheduled a quick series of tests and meetings on Tuesday of this week. On Wednesday morning, they confirmed what we had suspected. The cancer was back. In the back of his throat. Isolated, which is good news. If you have dealt with cancer, or let’s face it, just dealt with life, one of the biggest lessons there is, is grab onto the good news. Clench it tight.
I’m not here to make a case for cancer, at all. Cancer is terrible. This news is all that I’ve thought about for the last several days. It’s all I have thought about since the doctor took the biopsy three weeks ago. I’m not here to tell you that I don’t have dark thoughts swimming around my head. I do. I’m not going to tell you what those thoughts/worries are, they are the natural ones.
What I am going to tell you are the things I am grateful for.
First of all, I’m grateful that my Dad has my Mom to help him in this battle. She’s been a warrior every other time he faced cancer in the past, and she will be a warrior again. This is a woman who slept in an uncomfortable cot next to my Dad’s bed every one of the 16 nights that he was in the hospital in Kansas City.
I am grateful my parents have a strong support system, from family, friends and church.
I am grateful that I will be able to see them in a few weeks. To get to spend some time together. Drive my Dad to chemo. Maybe get to take my Dad to a Royals game.
I am grateful my Dad’s treatment does not include another 12 hour surgery.
I am grateful that on Wednesday, when they got home from the doctor, my Dad was able to pick up their dog Ruby and she was happy to see him. In the days and weeks ahead, it will be Ruby’s job to keep some joy and levity in my parents’ house, and she is more than up to the task.
I am grateful that my parents’ best friends came over on Wednesday night and sat with them for awhile. Also, grateful that these friends only live 2 blocks away.
I am grateful my Dad played golf twice this week. Wait, I think maybe he played golf three times.
I am grateful I know how much my Dad loves me and I’m grateful he knows how much I love him.
He is going to start chemotherapy soon. Probably radiation later. We don’t know his treatment schedule yet, so for now, we wait, with hope.
On Wednesday, when my Dad told me the news, that I already suspected, he admitted, “I have had a good life.” Another thing about my Dad I am grateful for, and I suspect it has something to do with his faith and also, something to do with fighting cancer on and off for the last 19 years, he is not afraid of introspection. He is not afraid to look at his life and say, these are my joys, even, these are my sorrows. I think about a prayer my Dad made at a family reunion last summer, “Dear God, you’ve blessed us, some more than others, some more than we deserve.” If you asked my Dad today if he still felt blessed by God, I have not doubt what his answer would be.
Like, I said, tomorrow is Father’s Day. And every Father’s Day that I spend on this earthly plane, my thoughts will be on my Dad, Ray Louis Barnhart, Sr. Yes, I am named after my father. I will always be grateful that God blessed me with him, with both my parents.
I always try to think of ways that I am like my Dad. I think we are pretty different people. And yet, when I look in a mirror, I can’t help but see a bit of him in me. I know that he does not want me to worry about the battle ahead. I know that he does not want me to mourn this diagnosis, but rather to acknowledge all that we should, we MUST, be grateful for. If you know me, you know that I can worry, you know that I can weep, but tomorrow, I have decided must be a day of joy. It is not irony that every little squirt of optimism I have in me, I got from one man. My Father. I am a lucky son.