“Our greatest pain in life comes not from the loss of a tangible person or thing, but from disappointment, or the loss of a hope or expectation.” My dad told me that once.
When I think about my dad having cancer, I think about this idea. I don’t have to have my dad with me all the time. I’ve survived being apart from him since I went to summer camp when I was 12. I’ve spent months away from him here at college, but the thought of losing him permanently weighs heavily on me. It’s like this thought is constantly pressing uncomfortably behind my eyes, making them sting and water.
What hurts the most about thinking about losing my dad is the thought that all my hopes and expectations for the two of us may not have a chance to happen. Going hiking this summer, cheering for me at my graduation, walking me down the aisle – he might not be there for any of that. And that scares me. My dad is my rock, my go-to guy, my protector, my defender and my best friend. When I was 13 and I was afraid of being home alone, I’d go into my mom and dad’s room and grab one of my dad’s T-shirts and just wear it around the house – just to have the smell of him around me.
I’m not like most kids because I never really had a rebellious phase and my parents have always been my best friends. I’m not embarrassed to admit that. My parents are my best friends. That’s it. So, in high school whenever I was feeling stressed or upset, I’d just hug my dad and I’d feel better. I’d wrap my arms around his belly and just let myself be enveloped by that unique combination of smells: soap, aftershave and cotton. I would hold on as long as he would let me, then he’d chuckle and tell me I was being goofy. I’d cling tighter even as he laughed and tried to wriggle free of my grip.
My dad and I are goofy together – super goofy. Whether it’s talking to my mom in Italian mobster accents or singing “1, 2 Step” by Ciara at the top of our lungs, my goofiest memories are shared with him. We have a very unique sense of humor, so I think my dad was happy when he realized that I shared his sense of humor. We just make each other laugh all the time. We laugh about laughing. There’s just something special about the bond I share with him, something that paragraphs and paragraphs of words couldn’t fully explain. But as I think about him smiling at me from across the kitchen table as we goof around, make fun of my sister or create our own Native American drum circle, I’m overcome with emotions.
My dad is the greatest man I know. No question about it. Sometimes you say things to people to make them feel better, like “You’re the greatest,” or “You’re the nicest person ever.” But those words are hollow and used only as a way to help the other person feel better about something. But with my dad, I mean it. He is literally the greatest man I will ever know. He is unbelievably funny and goofy and silly and youthful. He is incredibly smart. And he is sweet, caring and loving.
When we were younger, my dad would tell his students that he’d do anything for his daughters – kill, steal, you name it. And it was this unconditional, ever-present, overwhelming love that I was raised in. Growing up, my dad told me he loved me – at least once a day. Whenever I call him now, our conversations always end with “Alright … Well, we’ll talk again soon. I love you, kid.” “I love you, Dad.”
So I guess what I’m trying to say is: Appreciate the people you have in your life. Take the time to be thankful for the wonderful people you have all around you. Your parents can be your greatest supporters, your greatest allies, but only if you let them. Sometimes it takes the threat of losing something – or someone – in order for you to realize how truly important they really are.
Lydia Laythe is a sophomore social work major. She can be reached at email@example.com.