Seventh grade sucks for just about everyone, but I’d argue that there are even more unimaginable levels of suckage when you have to go through it as a 12 year old girl and things are already screwy. Whether it was bullies saying that my eyes were too big and that I looked like a fish or the teachers saying that my voice was too loud and that I needed to learn how to talk in hushed tones, the ridicule seemed never-ending. Every day seemed like a new day for torture, until the day when I realized I would take the torture of 1000 bullies than to go through even one day of the month of April in 2005.
I’d had a good childhood leading up to my middle school years. I was considered one of the lucky ones because I grew up in a nice home, in the kind of small town where you never had to lock your doors, and I had two of the best parents who would’ve done anything for my sister and me.
For six years before my seventh grade year, our family took the phrase “live like you’re dying” very literal. We traveled to the places we’d only dreamed of going, we never said no to opportunities that came our way and we always made the best of every situation we were thrown into.
Those six years were some of the best years of my life and were filled with more love than anyone could possibly imagine.
Although, never in those six years did I think I’d lose him.
Never did I think I would be brought to my knees, screaming on the sidewalk outside of my middle school after my mom told me that the doctors thought my dad was dying and never did I think I would watch my dad cry when his oncologist told him that he was in the early stages of liver failure and they had done all they could do.
Watching my father fight colon cancer for six years was like watching a boxer get the crap kicked out of him again and again during a match, but always managing to get back up on his feet. He would be bloodied and bruised, but would always come back swinging with a new level of determination each time that made you cheer for him even harder.
But, all fights come to an inevitable end and his fight was one of the greats.
Not once did he let on to how much pain he was really in or how scared he was to leave my mother alone and miss my sister and I grow up. Not once did he let my mother, sister and me go a day without knowing how much he loved us and how we shouldn’t be afraid to move forward and find happiness, even though he wouldn’t be around to see it.
After his death, it was hard to be happy without him, to laugh without him and to smile without him. But I always remembered what he’d said and knew that I would smile again. Someday, I knew I would.
Eventually, I would smile thinking about those six years of wheelchair races in the Mayo Clinic tunnels, of him helping me with my algebra, only to look in the back of the book and seeing a different answer than the one he came up with, of our car rides on the back-roads listening to Sting and the Beatles, of how he would come to my basketball games and cheer me on even though I was probably the worst on the team, and of him coming to school one morning to pull the bullies, who had made fun of my eyes, out of class and give them a stern talking-to.
I would smile thinking about how much love he had for his family, his friends and his life and I would smile knowing that my father fought and fought so that he could have six years with all of the people and things he loved, when his doctors originally gave him only six months.
This year marks the tenth year I’ve lived in a world without my dad, but I know I have to keep living life to the fullest anyway. I know he’d want me to, or at least that’s what I’d learned in my last six years with him.
My fighter. My protector. My dad.
Until next time,