Lucky Son

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.

14 thoughts on “Lucky Son

  1. Ray this is beautiful! I don’t know what else to say. This week has been a roller coaster. The day after we got home he went and played golf. Had to do a lttle watering that day. He says, come on Ruby and her tail wags so hard it could break. Next day I couldn’t keep him done. Watering, pulling weeds and today he went out and picked green beans. What can I say. I have to let him do the things wants. He is like Uncle Ken, he will work until to the end. God bless you son, we love you!

    • When I read your life stories, I am there, just like when a read a book from an untold author, with colored pictures in my head. You make me feel like I’m right there with you on that golf course or at that Royals game. Putting a smile on my face or a tear in my eye. But let’s face it, it’s usually a barrel laugh in my gut. I can still hear your voice like it was yesterday at Hidden Haven camp. Why must we move on and lose those wonderful friends we meet as children that we swear we will never lose touch with, never quit writing. Makes me kind of jealous of the youth today that they can always stay connected no matter how far they may travel. But then again, they will never have the joy of always having those wonderful pictures in their head and the laughter in their hearts of that incredible friend they met in the summers of their childhood. Those memories will never change and never be forgotten or taken for granted that they can just flip on their phone and there they are. You will always be a dear friend to me even though we haven’t spoken in so many years. Thank you for sharing your life, your loves and your family treasures with us.

      • It’s so funny, because, I think I told you this, but when I was home, I went through three boxes of old letters from jr high, hs and college. I threw out a lot and then held on to some. Of course, I kept yours. But these letters, they were such a joy for me. I kid you not, my heart would skip a beat, when I’d find a letter in the mailbox from Dawn McKenney. Everyone is so connected now, which is a wonderful thing. You and I have not been in the same room for 30 years, and yet, because of the connected age we live in, we are still friends, we know each other’s lives, even our SCHEDULES. It’s kind of crazy. Anyway, all that being said, I’m so happy we met at church camp all those years ago, and I’m happy that decades later, we are still in touch. Love you!!!

  2. Your parents are darlings. Cancer is the worst. Many prayers and lots of hugs. If you need an ear or a drink when you are in town just holler. Also if I can run an errand or do anything at all for your parents-let me know.

  3. Your father is one lucky man to have such a loving son. Keeping you & your family in my thoughts & prayers Ray.

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