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This is for all you people who didn’t know my dad:

Imagine you are a little blond girl. You love your big, strong Daddy more than anything else in the world. You love how he sings you to sleep in that deep, rumbly baritone; you love how he carries you on his big shoulders out of Cal football games right in front of the band, which always scares the security guards but not you; you love how he dresses better than everybody else’s dads; you love how he always has good advice, even if you don’t take it sometimes; and you love how he never forgets to tell you you’re beautiful, to say what a smart girl you are, to compliment your cooking or your outfit no matter how bad it is (and he can tell), to tell you how much he loves you.

You grow into a big girl, and he doesn’t seem as godlike as he used to, but you still love him more than anything else in the world, despite the fact that the Barbra Streisand album is going to drive you nuts. He still gives great advice, and because you value his opinion so much, him merely being disappointed or angry with you is enough to make you cry. He can’t stand to see his little baby girl cry. He’ll apologize and kiss you on the top of your head, until you’re not mad or sad anymore, even though he’s still right. He teaches you how to iron shirts and polish shoes and use power tools and even though you procrastinate on your chores, you kinda brag to people about just how much you do around the house. You take to Catholicism even better than he did, and you love how proud he is of the fact that you know the “Hail, Holy Queen,” but equally so of the fact that you know that Mary Pickford made 4 talkies and won the 1929 Best Actress for one of them.

But all good things come to an end. Your big, strong daddy starts hurting in his back all the time. He was always about 250 pounds, and now he’s losing weight, not too fast, though, but he’s in enough pain to not be all that hungry. You think this is weird but a good side effect, since Daddy was always very fond of food (he could eat a whole meal at ANY restaurant, period, whether he ordered a 32 oz steak or not). He does less around the house and feels so guilty about it; when the pain gets so bad that he can’t do it anymore, he counts how many weekends he’s “wasted.”

Then your daddy goes home one day in such agony that you and your mom have to take him to the emergency room. You sit in the waiting room, praying your Hail Marys, not knowing quite what to think. You don’t find out until the next day. Your daddy, your big, strong, smart daddy with all the trivia in his head, has pancreatic cancer. He has 3-6 months to live.

You stay home the next day. You love him more than anything else, and no other man can make you cry like he can. You figure that you’ll be crying wherever you are, so you might as well cry at home, since you don’t want too many questions. You see daddy in the hospital, and he finds out you didn’t go to school today, and he goes into a speech about how you can’t stop your life. One thing daddy always had a problem with was conceitedness. He thought that because you were so together in front of him, that you must have stayed home for him. But you evaded the issue.

He gets out of the hospital with a full plate of chemo ahead of him. The oncologist thinks he might have a better chance than the surgeon thought he did. So he goes ahead with the chemo. It takes so much out of him. He throws up all the time, and he keeps getting skinnier. In fact, by the time he gives up the chemo, he only weighs 180, and he’s shrunk an inch and a half. There is nothing so heartbreaking for you as seeing him, your big strong daddy, turned into a little old man in a matter of months. In the last few weeks he loses the strength necessary to pour himself milk. By the end he is so weak that he can’t even give that trademark smile, the one with all the perfectly straight and slightly yellow teeth that just says, “You’re pretty good,” as if you have passed a test. He can barely smile with his lips closed. When he gets up to walk around, he has to hang on to your mom’s arm because he is so weak; he can barely stand up because he gets so dizzy just getting up.

It was good that he died when he did; another two weeks of his weakening, and it would have broken your beliefs in everything: you would be a shell of what you were. You know that you had the best daddy in the world; that your time with him was short is proof that God has a sense of fairness. You wouldn’t have been able to take his dying 2 years before he did, but then, you’re two years older now. You will prove that he did not die in vain; you will do something that will make him proud.


  1. I only remember one thing about your dad, because I never really got to know him. It was in ninth grade, and your dad was driving me home after you invited me to go with you to the concert for the jazz band (your bro was playing.) We were all loaded up in the truck, and I was in the middle because I was the smallest. He really didn’t say much to me, and we were all pretty silent. Then we revved up by another car, and the car alarm went off. Your dad just laughed and laughed. That’s how I remember him.

  2. This was a hard one for me. I lost my Dad two years ago to the evil black widow spider known as cancer. It took her five years to take her victim.

    I understand in a way that I wish I didn’t the feelings you wrote about.

  3. I never had a dad like that but I always wish that I had, I also never had that feeling this blog described and I’m not sure I want to experience a loss of such a great person…I don’t know you, I never knew your dad, but this post has me sitting here crying because I’m just trying to imagine what it would feel like to lose a person like him and I cant even comprehend it….I am so very sorry you went through this, but I’m also glad that you had him in your life. My heart is with you.

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