By CECILIA TUCKER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2001
Second of two parts
My dad is going to have surgery today. I hear from Mom that he is doing okay, but he feels very weak. At night, as I lie in bed, I have scary thoughts about how it must be for him in that hospital. I see the hospital as a big, noisy place where no one really cares about my dad the way my mom and I do. Do they know how important he is to us? I want to tell them how special he is, but no one really asks. I'm not sure I like strangers taking care of someone so important to me. They will take good care of him, right?
Surgery scares me! I have these visions of my dad being whisked away, in the deep sleep caused by the magical gas finding its way into his lungs. Then, I picture his body going into a slight trauma state as his stomach is sliced open and then sewn back together. I imagine that after his surgery he will probably wake up with deep, sharp pain, like a hundred knives digging into his skin. I think his body will be screaming inside, trying to get the sound of pain up to his pale lips. Then, totally exhausted, he will fall asleep with medication that will numb the pain and make him rest.
Three long days pass before I get to see my dad. I am so scared to go but relieved at the same time. I see my dad lying in bed looking as weak as a mouse. Tears well up in my eyes as I look at him with the staples holding his stomach together. I feel so sad; I know I have no idea how much pain he is experiencing. I stay with him as long as I can. I feed him ice chips because that is all he can swallow. The smell of moth balls and soap permeates the hospital, a smell I shall never forget. As I leave the room, I touch his hand, and he gives me a warm smile. I smile back. I tell him I love him, too.
Another week goes by before my dad comes home. I go with my mom to pick him up. We help him into the car with all his stuff, including flowers and cards from friends and relatives. But the best part of bringing my dad home is not the stuff he brings with him; he is the best part! I am so glad to see him and have him home again. During the next several days, he tells us how awful hospital food tasted and how his roommate kept throwing up all the time. I couldn't imagine having to cope with that, being as sick as he was.
Just as I am beginning to think my dad is going to be okay, my parents tell me the chemotherapy is to start now. I know these treatments are not going to be fun, but I don't know how bad they could be. I go with my dad to one of his chemo treatments and I am scared . . . for both of us. I watch the nurse as she sticks a sharp needle into my dad's skin and then pumps the chemo fluid into him. I feel his hand. It feels like a cold chilliness just chased all the warmth of the blood away. I hope never to feel that again.
The chemotherapy is over for now, and my dad is fine today. He is my best friend and companion. I appreciate him more today than ever before, and I hope I will never forget how special my time is with him. Some days I feel like a regular teenager. I get mad at him like any other teenager would, but I never forget to tell him I am sorry and make things right because time is too short. Dad, I love you.
Don't ever forget to tell your dad you love him, too.
Author's note: A special thanks goes to Elliot Graham, an eighth-grader at John Hopkins Middle School, for his contribution to this article.
IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Tucker, who has been in counseling practice since 1979, writes this column under the guidance of a panel of teenage advisers, who approve the topics and offer their insights (in exchange for pizza). You may write to her c/o: IT!, X-Press, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.