Excerpt for Dear Dad: Working through my father's death by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Dear Dad:

Working through my father’s death

Brianna LeBlanc

Copyright © 2017 by Brianna LeBlanc

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the authors, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below.

Published by Brianna LeBlanc at Smashwords

This is a completely true account of the months leading up to my father’s death. Everyone named in this are members of my family and/or people I’ve worked with or fellow students.

Cover design by: Myself, with a picture I took.

May 15, 2015

Dear Dad,

I’ve been preparing for this Moment ever since the doctors found the first spot on your lung. I knew this day was coming, I knew it the moment Mom told me about the test results. Since then I’ve been coaching myself, training myself to get used to saying the words, “Dad” and “lung cancer” in the same sentence. It’s been the running joke for years in our family that you would die of lung cancer from the smoking, but I don’t think anyone actually thought it would happen.

I know I didn’t. I thought you would live forever, always a phone call away whenever I need advice, or to vent, or to take advantage of your wisdom and knowledge. I know that’s pretty naïve of me, but it’s that mentality that our parents are somehow immortal, that they will always be around. I’m 25 years old and I am in no way shape or form prepared to take care of myself, despite your best efforts. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember all of the lessons you tried to teach me, like ironing and keeping track of my money in a check book and not just spending money and hoping for the best.

I think it’s safe to say that the lessons you have taught me are probably not the ones you meant to: an adversity to any kind of green food; inappropriate racial jokes; a strong dislike for Republicans and the state of Texas and how to cuss out every other driver on the road. But for every “bad” lesson you taught me, you always taught me how to form my own opinion on hot topics – explaining how you feel and why, but telling me to find my conclusion. More often than not, I’ve adopted your values and beliefs because I agreed with them. The phrase “still waters run deep” is a perfect way to describe you, Dad. For every time you told me a woman’s place was the kitchen, you told me that abortion is their choice and no one else’s. For every politician you’ve made fun on the news, you explained politics to me in a way I could understand. For every time you stuck your head in my room and shook your head, you would only have to tell me to clean the bathroom one time. For every sports team that I love and follow, you let me sit next to you on the couch and ramble on and on about them, even though you didn’t care. Even though you think soccer is boring, during the World Cup you would watch the games, or keep track of the score so you could call me at work and let me know if my team won. Every time the England National Team won, you would chuckle and hug me and tell me that for a bunch of limeys, they didn’t do all that great, your version of “sorry your team sucks.” You encouraged me to play basketball when I was younger, always practicing with me on the weekends, and you and Mom never missing a home game, even if we lost. You’ve always encouraged me to find something that I love and believe in.

I believe in you, Dad.

I believe in the way you have always supported me, you and Mom, even in some of my own foolish endeavors. You made fun of me sometimes, but you still supported me. You painted a mural on my wall when I loved basketball, spending a good amount of time on it. You bought me basketball after basketball, and then a baseball glove, and then a soccer ball. You bought me rap albums that I had no business listening to at 12, but you knew they were my favorite rapper. Mom totally made you return it for the clean version, but it was the thought that counted. And in any case, she bought me 8 Mile without realizing how dirty it was so I think you guys are even.

It’s the way you’ve always just let me be who I am. I know that changed as I got older and you couldn’t understand why I hated wearing dresses, and we started to clash over that. But even then, you’ve kind of let it go. I will wear a dress to church when I come home next month, just for you. You’ve seen me go through a lot of changes, both fashion wise and hair styles. I know my faux hawk is your least favorite, but I like hearing you make rooster noises when you’re sitting behind in your recliner. You saw me fight with my bangs until you couldn’t stand it anymore and slapped duct tape on my forehead and cut them off. I loved that when Mom came home and saw what you did, you blamed it on Bridgette. When I was younger it was all t-shirts and baggy shoes with basketball shoes and you were fine with that. When I was in high school, I know that you were relieved when I started wearing pink and light-yellow button downs, because then I finally looked like I had a home and wasn’t living on the streets. And I know that you liked it even more when I was in college and started dressing a little more formally, slacks and nice dress shirts, the occasional skirt. When I started traveling with the debate team, you always dropped me off at the college, made sure I had plenty of cash, made sure I had everything, hugged me good bye and said “call me when you get there. I’ll see you on Sunday.” Every time the same response. You took me to the family Christian book store and bought me my St. Christopher medal, so that I would be safe and protected while I was gone. Mom was irritated and told both of us that neither one of us were Catholic so the only thing that would protect me was God. When she turned around, you would always mock her.

I’m sitting here, Dad, and I feel like it hasn’t sunk in yet. Like it hasn’t really hit me that by the time I earn my college degree, you will be dead. You will have died of cancer. From this Moment forward, my only task to get this degree so that you can see me walk across that stage, knowing that I not only did this for myself, but I did it for you too, Dad.

I love you.

May 18, 2015

I talked to Jonathan on the phone for an hour the other day. He sounded somber at first, like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to really talk about it or not, but pushed forward. The conversation started off serious, but the tone quickly changed when we started talking about your funeral. Then we couldn’t stop laughing. We spent forty-five minutes cracking each other up about the way we would run the funeral. No one we didn’t like, or that we knew you didn’t like would be allowed inside. Tissues would be passed out, under the condition that any crying would be done quietly. We said that anyone that made a scene or started wailing or sobbing really loud would be encouraged to leave because nobody in the family had time to deal with that. Your eulogy would be funny story after funny story. It was the kind of conversation where you’re half-serious, half-joking. Jonathan and I are cut from the same cloth in that we have to laugh or else we will lose it. Our humor is our weapon and shield and think now and in the upcoming years, we will need it more than ever.

I also talked to Mom while I was waiting for the bus to take me back to the campus. She said that you had announced it at church and that everyone was super-supportive. I wish I had been there, in order to gauge how people really took the news. But at the same time, I don’t think I could’ve handled people coming up to me and telling me that they were sorry and would pray for me, like you already had one foot in the ground. Like their prayers were really going to keep you alive.

I know that when stuff like this happens, people either turn from the church or back to the church. I already spent a good chunk of my young adulthood pissed off at God, so I’m not sure how this is going to go down. I know that you always joke around dragging God into everything and mock Mom every chance you get by saying “God’s in control,” but you’re always the only one who does their Sabbath school lesson, and writes down scripture and watches some random sermon on the computer whenever you miss church. But then that’s always been you, making light of Adventism and threatening to go Catholic again, when really you do have a heavy belief in the faith. And I think whether I want to admit it or not, so do I. I know I rarely go to church, but I always observe the Sabbath. I won’t watch or listen to things I know God wouldn’t like, and I always try not to curse for those 24 hours and even here in Washington, I keep up with it. Its part learned practice, and part watching you follow the rules no matter how many times you mock it.

Mom mentioned that she wants you and her to start doing more things while you still feel good, but you haven’t felt good in a long time, have you, Dad? You’ve been feeling worn down and worn out and tired, haven’t you? You’re tired, Dad. Tired of being tired, tired of feeling bad, and tired of that stupid oxygen tank. You breaking your wrist last year and then getting staph was the beginning of the end. And I think I knew it then. That time was running out. That you weren’t going to be around for much longer. And then when they first found the spot, that was it. Now I really knew that you didn’t have much time. I know that there was still so much more that you wanted to do. I know that you’re still looking for your daughter. I know that you’re dying to go back to California, just one time.

And let me tell you, Dad, once I got off the phone with Mom, I started trying to figure out how to get you and that oxygen tank to San Diego. I started trying to figure out if driving would be easier on you or if flying was quicker. I started trying to figure out how long could you and me and Jonathan (because I am going to ask Jonathan to come with us) stay there. I want so badly to do this for you, Dad. Even if I know you’re going to end up super disappointed with the state of the, well, state, I want you to see California. Just one more time. As soon as the doctor gives us a time line, we’re going to do it. If we can talk Mom into taking the time off, and I guess bring Bridgette, let’s do it, Dad. One last family trip.

I love you.

May 22, 2015

Dear Dad,

Today we got the best possible news that we could under the circumstances. The cancer hasn’t spread anywhere else, which means instead of only one year with you, I get five. The whole family gets five more years with you. Chemo and radiation isn’t going to be fun. It will be harder on you than the cancer itself, and I’m glad that you and Mom discussed about what to do if the chemo is too much. But it was hard to hear that if you refuse the chemo, the life expectancy is 4-6 months. And I think it was especially hard to hear because I can see you refusing chemo in the future. You start treatment next month, and I wish I could be there for you on your first day. You had the port put in today, and I think it hit home for Mom. I could hear it in her voice as she was telling me about it. I know about these things because as soon as they found the first spot, I began to educate myself. I wanted to know everything. I got to talk to you and Mom on Skype and you looked good, Dad. You looked healthy, and happy. Looking at you, nobody would ever know. It does me good to see you like this, especially when know it’ll change in the future. You asked me if I had decided what college to transfer to in Texas, and that meant a lot to me. I know you want me to be happy where I am and that you’re so proud of me doing this in the first place, but now you know that all I want is to be near you and you support that.

I’m going to transfer to SWAU. It’s closer and it’s Adventist so everyone wins. They have a legit journalism program, unlike here, and I told Mom that after graduate and you pass, I’ll move back to Washington and start over. I wish you could see Washington, Dad. It was hard before but now it’s impossible and that makes me sad because I know you would really like it here.

One of the things that really makes me sad is that you’ll never see my first book. Do you remember, before I left, you were sitting in your chair in the living room and as I waked by, you said that you wanted me to dedicate my first book to you? It made me laugh because you have faith that I will write a book one day. And I will, and even though you’ll never see it, I’m going to dedicate it to you. I will always remember that Moment. I will always remember all of our Moments together.

I love you.

May 26, 2015

Dear Dad,

I talked to you on the phone last night and it’s so good to hear your voice. I know that I won’t be able to hear it in a few years, so every time is special to me. We were talking about what kind of duffle bag I should buy and as I rattled off the dimensions and weight and what kind of material it was, I kept thinking that one day, I won’t be able to call you and ask you if this or that is good or bad or if I should keep looking or just go ahead and buy it. One day I’ll have to use my own judgement and hope that it’s good.

You told me about Aunt Virgie and her diagnosis of breast cancer. It made me laugh when you said that she always has to one up you. As terrible as this sounds, when you first told me, I thought “karma.” And then I thought “I hope she goes first.” As awful as that sounds Dad, I don’t want her to outlive you.

I talked to Bridgette today for the first time in a few weeks. I wasn’t sure how she was taking her diagnosis, so we talked about it. I was a little surprised to hear that she was taking the slightly pessimist approach. She told me that she broke down crying in front of her boss when she talked about you. She told me how she was tired of telling people over and over again that you were dying. That repeating it over and over hurts just as bad as when she found out. I’m inclined to agree. I’ve only told a few people here at school, not because I had to, because I want to. I want to talk about it, but at the same time, it feels like a kick to the gut. I want to tell everyone who will listen but in doing so, it only makes it more real. I haven’t cried yet. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. When I first found out, when I got off of Skype with you and Mom, I felt the tears building in the back of my eyes, and my throat tightened and my face got red. But then I couldn’t do it. For some reason, I couldn’t allow myself to cry about it. You weren’t dead yet, so a part of me said to save the tears. Maybe it’s Mom’s voice in the back of my head telling “crying isn’t going to solve anything.” Which is true. My tears aren’t to save you. Nothing is going to save you, not really.

I feel myself swinging between two emotions; one is the sadness that you’re going to die. The other is optimism that I know exactly how much time I have left with you. And in between that is the anger that we didn’t start treatment sooner. The fear that I don’t know how to live without you. The depression that keeps me in bed, even before I found out. I know that things are going to change when I get home. That I am going to change when I get home. I will be taking on more responsibility until I get to my new school. I will be helping Mom out more, including helping you cooperate with the new diet. I know that in the past you and I have always been on the same page when it came to Mom’s health kicks and I know that it’s not going to be easy for me to adjust, but things are going to change, Dad. Part of me wants to pretend like none of this is happening. That when I get home, it’ll be like I never left. I won’t go back to college, I’ll start working again and I’ll go back to that routine. But I know I can’t bury my head in the sand and wait until this goes away. Because this will never go away. This will never be over. In a way, this feels like the beginning of the end. That when you die, things will never be the same. It will start a whole new chapter in everyone’s lives.

I feel like I’m too old to change this way. Like I’ve hit my peak and this is who I’ll be for the rest of my life, no new growth, no new anything, just a steady rhythm that is my life. But then, I’m sure you thought the exact same thing. You’ve always been this cool, calm and collected guy. Solid as a rock and steady. Never changing, what you see is what you get. And I want to be that person. I want people to tell me “You are just like your father.” I can think of no greater compliment or honor.

I love you.

June 2, 2015

Dear Dad,

You had your first round of chemo yesterday. I could barely pay attention in class because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I know that even though chemo is supposed to help fight the cancer, more often than not, it drains the patients to the point where they don’t feel strong enough to fight the chemo. I’ve seen it happen before, with Luis Roman. I’ll never get that image of him out of my mind; how he went from being this strong, stocky, healthy-looking guy, to this frail, sickly shell. Seeing him just waste away like made me so sad because up until then I had seen someone end up like that. It scares me that you’ll end up looking like that one day. That I’ll come home and I’ll see you, but it won’t be my Dad anymore, it’ll just be…a shell.

I talked to you on the phone yesterday when I was coming back from study group. You had gotten the college baseball cap I bought for you about a week ago and were so excited! I knew that you had been wanting that hat for years, so I went online and got the best one I could find and had it shipped to the house. I know you’re going to start feeling like crap in a few days, so I wanted to get you the hat so you could see how much I love you. I’m glad you were happy about the hat. You gushed about it to me on the phone, telling me how nice it was and how happy you were to have it. It made me feel like I had finally done something right since you had been diagnosed. I’ve been so angry at myself for being so far away, even though I know logically there isn’t anything I can do, just being able to be with you would’ve made me feel better. So, having you be excited over the hat was the best feeling I’ve had since I found out.

You told me about the chemo and what the process was and how long it took and how you felt. I like hearing it directly from you and not Mom, mostly because I can hear how you sound. You sound really good, Dad. A little tired, but you sound good. We talked about Bridgette’s behavior and even though I agree one hundred percent with you, it made me sad that you’re no longer surprised by her inconsiderate behavior towards you. It infuriates me that she missed your anointing at church when I would’ve given anything to be there for you. She was supposed to be the one to represent the LeBlanc kids, and instead she acted like a stupid little sixteen year who couldn’t be bothered. I’m going to yell at her about it when I get home. It’s not fair that she’s there with you and doesn’t give a shit, whereas Jonathan and I would do anything to be home and helping out with everything. We’re both so far from home and there’s nothing we can do about it. She’s right there and she cares more about her stupid boyfriend and friends than she does about this family. Things are going to change when I get home, though, Dad, so don’t worry. I’ll straighten her out.

You know, it’s funny, this summer was supposed to be different. When I got to Washington, it was with the sole idea that when Summer came around, I was going to go to Canada to watch the World Cup and spend the rest of the break working and trying to break out into outdoor activities. But now, my summer is going to be spent helping Mom around the house and with you, and possible working. And you know what? I’m not upset at the change. Okay, yeah, I am sad that I’m going to miss the World Cup, but knowing that you don’t have many summers left, just makes the remaining ones all the more special to me.

I love you.

June 9, 2015

Dear Dad,

I got to talk to you on the phone today. It was after the US Women opening match in the World Cup. We won 3 to 1, but it was a really terrible first half. Defense sucked hardcore and midfield was everywhere but where they needed to be. Still we came back strong in the second half. I know you don’t understand any of what I tell you about the game, but you still listen and congratulate me like I’m the coach. It was really good to hear your voice and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow night. My flight gets in late, but hopefully you’ll still be awake. I can’t promise I won’t tear up because I’ve really missed you guys.

So, Bridgette called me a couple of days ago and dropped the bomb on me that she was pregnant. Honestly, I’m not surprised that this happened. I’m so unbelievably pissed and hurt and sad, but not surprised. When she came out and told me, the only thing I could think was that she had ruined her life. That she no longer had a life. And then the only thing I could was that my life was over. MY LIFE WAS OVER! I felt like the baby Daddy. The girl can’t take care of herself on her best day, how the hell was she supposed to take care of herself and a baby? I knew in that Moment that I was going to have to take care of her. I was going to be the one who made sure she was taking her prenatal vitamins and going to her doctor appointments. I saw my life going down the drain because how can I take care of her while I’m away at college? I can’t. I stay pretty calm on the phone with her, but the second I hung up, I lost it. I just started crying. No, I was bawling. I was so angry and hurt. I called Mom, sobbing, telling her everything I couldn’t tell Bridgette. I think I cried for about an hour, listening to Mom tell me to calm down and to stop making it about her. She told me that I wasn’t responsible for Bridgette and that she wasn’t going to let me put college on hold for her. She told me that I had my own life and it didn’t include my sister.

But that’s the thing. Bridgette isn’t included in any of our lives. Not me, not Jonathan, not Shannon and definitely not you and Mom. Mom already made it clear that you’re are her number one priority and that’s as it should be. But that means that nobody cares about Bridgette. Nobody isn’t excited about this baby. How can we? How can we deal with a pregnant Bridgette and your cancer at the same time? Bridgette has always been a burden on this family and her pregnancy could not come at a worst time. The really sad part about this is that Bridgette knows this sucks. Nobody loved her before and that she’s pregnant we love her even less. Bridgette will never be able to win no matter what she does. And I love her. I do. But I want to shake her. I want to hurt her. I want to scream at her that this is the biggest mistake she could ever make. But I can’t because now Bridgette needs someone to love her. The boyfriend wants her to get an abortion, which tells me he wants nothing to do with the baby. She’s over at his house right now even though he probably wishes she’d hit the bricks because she wants someone to love her. And right now, that’s no one.

Jonathan called me last night pretty upset about the whole thing. I don’t blame him. He feels pretty much the same way I do; we are both incredibly sad about the whole thing. We want to be happy, but we just can’t. I’ve felt pretty numb ever since she told me. That this was happening to someone else. Like I was at work and this was just another patient. It’s taken a lot of soul searching and coming to terms with this to come to the conclusion that even though I’m so angry at her, I will support her. I will step in where Mom cannot and I will take care of her. But I’m still going to college. SWAU is far enough away that I can still come home on the weekends, but ignore Bridgette if I want to.

I don’t know how you’re taking this. Here is a grandkid that you won’t see reach age three. A grandkid who won’t remember who. A grandkid who will grow up without you. This poor kid is coming into this family at the worst possible time, but there’s nothing any of us can do but accept it. I’ll make sure that this kid knows who you are and the wonderful person that you were.

I love you.

June 13, 2015

Dear Dad,

It was a chaotic day but I finally made it home last Wednesday. I could barely sleep Tuesday night because I was so excited to come home! Wednesday felt like I had gotten stuck in a time bubble and then it went downhill from there. I got to the airport late and then security took forever so I barely made my flight from Seattle to Dallas. Even though we arrived in Dallas early, we didn’t exist the plane for 15 minutes thanks to some newbie not knowing how to do their job, so then I ended up going to the wrong gate thanks to a stupid Indian flight attendant who spoke poor English. Thankful that flight was delayed but by this point I was tired and pissed off and just wanted to be home already. I started crying when I finally saw you guys, even though I wanted to keep it cool. It was so good to see both you and Mom and to hug both of you. Bridgette was there too, but she kept complaining about feeling like she was going to throw up the whole time. It was weird seeing all the new stores that had opened while I was gone. Like life had still been going even though I was away. Being back in my own home with my own stuff was great. I had a hard time feeling asleep that first night since I’m still on Washington time, but it was fine.

When I got up the next morning, I went to go talk to you and I knew that you had noticed that I had lost a lot of weight. You told me I needed to start eating again and I don’t know how to tell you that I’m not hungry. More than that, I’m not interested. By this point, I can go all day without eating, but I choked down some ramen because I don’t want you to worry. I ended up falling back asleep for another three hours, just waking up in time for you to get ready for your PT appointment. I had a sandwich and some cookies so you could see me eat. Mom came home to pick you up and I asked if we could go get Subway. I could see that Mom was happy that I was asking for food.

You know it’s funny. I thought I would feel different when I came home. Older, settled, mature, just…different. Instead I feel like I’m stepping back into my life exactly the way I left it. Like someone hit pause on my life before I went to Washington and then hit resume when I came back. Like those months I spent away from home didn’t really count or mean anything. Like it was an extended vacation. I expected to feel different. I want to feel different. I feel like I should be different with everything that’s been going on with you and Bridgette.

Bridgette. I don’t even know where to start with her. Honestly if you didn’t have cancer, I would not have come home. I would’ve stayed in Washington pretending she didn’t exist. I’ve only been home for two days, but I wish I had stayed in Washington and stayed the course, followed the path I created and started my life up there. Instead I’ve right back where I started, feeling like I never left in the first place. Like it was all dream, like a “what if” Moment. Mom wants me to get a job and I do want to get one, but I don’t want to go back to Dr. Baylor’s office with all the drama going on. The only drama I have room for is you and Bridgette and I feel like if I get stuck in another hostile environment, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I tried telling Mom how I felt, but she just kind of scoffed, like I was making a big deal out of nothing, like I should be taking her cool, calm and collected approach. But that’s not me. I can’t keep it bottled up like that otherwise I’ll crack. But you know Mom, you know how she is. I guess I’ll feel better about it when I can start really helping out around, contributing money wise. I don’t know, I guess like I just feel like maybe I left something of myself back in Washington. Like who I was there, isn’t who I am here. I know what’s like to be on my own, to take care of myself, to be my own master. I don’t want to end back up at a job I mostly hated with no chance of it getting better. Maybe I need a job to get back into the swing of things.

I love you.

June 21, 2015

Dear Dad,

Happy Father’s Day!! I know today wasn’t as big as it normally would be because of you not feeling great, but I feel so incredibly blessed to even have this day with you. Things have been crazy for a while. I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things. I got together with Kat and was able to talk about you and Bridgette. I finally got some things off my chest and it was great to talk to Kat. She offered a lot of perspective into Bridgette that none of us have. It’s been really great being back with you. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and it really helps seeing you be okay with everything. I also talked to you about depression. You’ve battled and struggled with depression since before I was born, so I know you were the one person who would understand what I was going through. I almost chickened out, still believing that I would be able to fight through this myself, but in the end, it was easy to tell you how sad I felt, how sad I had been feeling. You understood right away and comforted me, telling me that everything would be okay and that you would get me some help because you didn’t want to find me hanging from one closet one day. Hopefully I’ll be able to make an appointment really soon. I was dreading telling Mom since she doesn’t understand, but she was actually really cool about it. I told her that it started in Washington and I think she maybe still might chalk it up to homesickness and that I might get over it, but she agreed that if I needed to talk to someone than I should.

I met up with Dafney, wanting to reconnect with that part of my life. Seeing her again was great and spending time with her was great. I was finally able to get everything off my chest regarding Bridgette. She reacted exactly the way I thought she would and she let me vent and whine and complain without judgement. We ended up swinging by the clinic to see everyone. It was awesome, being back there. I would love to get my job back and get back into the swing of things, but I also know that with each chemo round, you’re going to get sicker and sicker and a big part of me wants to stay jobless so I can help Mom take care of you, but I need the money. Mom thinks I’m dragging my feet by not being more proactive in getting my job back, but part of that hesitation might be the depression. I don’t want to work. I don’t feel like working. I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m having a hard getting the ball rolling with getting everything transferred to SWAU because of that same reason. Why should I go back to college? Why should I have to be away from you guys again? Logically I knew that getting a degree would make you guys really proud and I want to do it, I really do. I just can’t find the motivation to do it.

Being back in Killeen feels like a huge step back. Like I just gave up in Washington because I was too homesick and didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. I had so many plans for making a life out there and now here I am. And what’s worse is I did it to myself. I could’ve stayed in Washington for the summer, gotten a job, taken summer classes. I could’ve done fall quarter and came home for Christmas Break. But I couldn’t stand being so far from you guys with you being sick. You were fine at the time but what if something happened? What if the treatments didn’t work or what if you suddenly just got worse and I couldn’t get home in time? Too many what-ifs.

I tried explaining it to Mom as a way of explaining why I didn’t feel better when I came home, but she doesn’t understand. It’s hard to explain to her what’s in my head, it always has been. You start your second round of chemo on the 24th and I pray to God you take it as well as you did the first round. Because I can’t imagine you getting too sick to carry on.

I love you.

June 27, 2015

Dear Dad,

You and Mom’s 35th wedding anniversary was two days ago. I know because I was sitting next to you while you were getting your next chemo round. After not being able to fall asleep, I woke up bright and early to go with you to your 8:00 o’clock appointment, despite the fact that I had only fallen asleep maybe four hours before. You did radiation first, leaving me sitting in the waiting room, with fox news on the TV and me unable to change it because the old guy sitting next to me was enthralled. Then we headed across the wall to get your chemo. You sat in the recliner and gave an update to the nurse about how you’re feeling as she cleaned out your port and then hooked up the saline to help push flush your kidneys. This lasted for half an hour before they hooked up the actually chemo. Sitting next to you, getting you orange juice and water and making sure you were warm, I felt useful for the first time since I got home from Washington. Although more often than not, I regret leaving Washington, especially when all I see since I’ve been home is you and Mom fight. I feel like the common denominator, since Mom told me how great you two got along when I was gone. But then I remember that ninety percent of your fighting is about Bridgette, so that helps with the anxiety but not a lot. I’m also having trouble with anxiety. Everything makes me nervous and anxious now. Part of it is the Women’s World Cup going on right now and you know I get really high strung when it comes to the U.S. Women’s National Team, and they’re doing really poorly now. But I don’t like being in public now. I don’t like people talking to me. I’m worried about everything. I’m worried about you, I’m worried about Mom killing you in your sleep, I’m worried about Bridgette and how her stupid baby Daddy drama is bad for the baby, I’m worried about Jonathan making a huge mistake by getting married, I’m worried about going to an Adventist university and having to hide the fact that I like girls, I’m worried I won’t get a job. I’m worried about everything and that’s not me. I’m not worried about anything ever. And now I worry about everything and I feel like I’m slowly suffocating. I feel like I’m slowly drowning and I can’t say anything because there is entirely too much going on in our family right now for me to add to it. You know who I am, Dad. You know I’m the kind of person to put my family and their feelings above my own. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could cast it off and say “screw it” and only worry about myself. But I can’t. When you got home today from your last chemo round of the month, you looked really tired. I sat on the couch and watched you sleep for two and a half hours, looking up from now and then from my phone to make sure you were still breathing. I know todays round took a lot out of you. You were in bed by 8:30, before the USA vs China match was over. I know because when the US scored a goal, I screamed and Mom yelled at me to shut up because you were sleeping. When the match ended, I wanted to tell you about it, but you were snoring, so I couldn’t. I can tell that Mom’s really worried about you this time. She keeps telling me that next month is going to be the roughest and it is. Most people think that cancer kills you, but really, it’s the treatments. You die from your immune system being so weak that you’re unable to go on. That’s what scares me the most about this whole thing; you being unable to go on. You giving up simply because your body can’t take another step, another move, another breath. You getting to the point where death is a sweet release. I’m scared you’ll die before I can get this degree, and if you do, that’s it. I’m done. There will be no point in getting something you won’t be around to see.

Although to be fair, I already feel that way. I’m dragging my feet in getting everything all set up for SWAU because I don’t feel like there’s any point. I’m started out getting this degree because I was tired of not getting pay raises at work, but I don’t work there anymore, so what’s the point? And now I’m getting it for you, but for what? I just feel like everything is completely pointless because I have a voice in the back of my head and a feeling in the pit of my stomach that says why matter when you know there’s a good chance you’ll end up killing yourself. It’s a voice that I’ve had for a long time, and I’ve never told anyone about it, not even the therapists in the past, because who wants to admit that.

I know it’s the depression. I’ve been fighting this voice for a long time, so I know how to beat it. But I know the depression is making it worse. I’m trying to get some help, but it’s hard finding someone who can see me now and not in October. But I’m not going to give up. And neither can you, Dad.

I love you.

July 14, 2015

Dear Dad,

It’s been a while. A crazy while. I’ll start at the top. You’ve been doing really well with the chemo and the radiation. But you are super tired all the time, Dad. Like, I’ve taken to sitting on the couch watching you sleep for three and a half hours before getting up, doing something for five minutes and then going back to sleep for another three and a half hours. I could be doing a thousand other things, but I like keeping an eye on you. I have to feel like I’m contributing to this family or else I left Washington for nothing. You do have your bad days, and recently that’s been more often than not. You and Mom fight all the time. From sunup to sundown. Jonathan got into town today and he noticed the fighting. He seems worried about it and so am I. But after 35 years, I know neither one of you is going to leave. But it feels like it, a lot.

Bridgette finally got her car repossessed. At first you and Mom thought it had been stolen, but this was much worse. Mom woke me out of a dead sleep at 7 in the morning to tell me. Of course, there’s not a damn thing I could do about it, so I went back to sleep after an hour, until Bridgette woke me up asking for money. She had to pay three months’ worth of car payments plus the fee to get the car. $1,310.04. That’s how much I paid. Thirteen grand. I have never given someone that much money before. I felt sick to my stomach the whole time I did it, but honestly, Dad, she was holding us hostage. Mom had to go and drive her everywhere cause the dumbass wanted to drive without a license because surprise, surprise, her purse with everything in it was in the car. So, I had to do something, but it took almost all the money I had saved up to bring with me to SWAU. I can’t even look at my bank account anymore because I get so angry and sad. She finally got her car back, thank God, but you sat her down and made her budget out her money so that she could pay her bills and pay me back. She says that she’s moving in with the baby Daddy, but I give that a couple of months before he either dumps her or kills her, whichever comes first.

So, something historic happened on July 5, 2015. Shannon drove up from Austin to watch the Women’s World Cup final with me. That’s not the historic thing, but it is part of it. Ever since I got Shannon into soccer, she and I haven’t been watch any major games together. We either text or call to talk about games we happened to watch. So, it actually meant a lot to me for her to come up and watch the game with me. And what a game, Dad!! Oh my god, I still can’t believe it!! I haven’t seen a final of any soccer match like that before in my life!! The USA was playing Japan again in the rematch of American women’s soccer. And I’m telling you, as soon as the ref blew the whistle, the game was over. Three minutes in, Carli Lloyd scored the first goal! This was already amazing because throughout the World Cup we had become known as a second half team, not scoring until the 50th minutes. So, this was already huge, but then Carli scored again in the 5th minute and we’re up 2-0 just like that! As excited as I was, I thought that was going to be it, but then Lauren Holiday (who sadly is retiring) scored in the 14th minute! AND THEN!! CARLI LLOYD SHOOTS OFF A GOAL FROM 54 YARDS AWAY!! Dad, she made a goal from the half way point of the pitch! Carli not only scored a hat trick (three goals in one game) but she was the first to score a hat trick in a World Cup final match, for guys and girls!! 16 minutes and the USA is up 4-0. Shannon and I were going nuts!! She and I had never seen anything like this before!! It was a bloodbath, a slaughter! There had never been a World Cup final like this ever before! As soon as Lauren Holiday scored that third goal, I thought that Japan had one hell of an uphill battle, but I had seen teams make a comeback like that before. But then the hat trick and I knew that we had won. That the USA had just won the Women’s World Cup. Nobody comes back from 4-0. Nobody. The Japan did their best, scoring a goal right before half time to make it 4-1, but by this time, I was like, “We won, what else is on?”

Now 4-1, nobody is coming back from that, and Tobin Heath (who I had been bad-mouthing because I wanted someone else to play her position and I have since then asked for her forgiveness) scores in the 54th minute. After that it was a waiting game. While the USA is kicking around the ball, watching Japan chase it, the FIFA officials are engraving USA onto the World Cup trophy. The last two minutes of the game, Shannon and I are right in front of the TV, on our knees, holding each other because this was it. Years of watching this team grow and expand and become the number one power house national team was all playing off and we were watching it happen. You were sitting on the couch watching it, too and before the ref blew the whistle to end the match, Mom got up so she could take pictures of me and Shannon celebrate.

I got to tell you, Dad. We all watched history being made that day. The whole team went crazy because they had finally emerged from the shadow of the 99ers and made their own mark on history. The squad of 2015 earned the USA that third star on the jersey, making the U.S. the only team to have won three world cups. I started really watching the team and following them at the 2012 Olympics. I love this sport. I love this team. I love each and every one of those players. I love how this team and this sport makes me feel. I love that from now on, whenever anyone talks about U.S. women’s’ soccer, they talk about this world cup. They talk about the 15ers. They talk about how determined this team was and how hard they worked and how much they wanted to stand on their own two feet as the greatest team. I feel like privileged to have watched that game. To have watched history being made. This match and this team has changed the face of women’s’ soccer forever. Twenty-five million people watched that game, and now tons of new fans are flocking to watch the NSWL (the national women soccer league) which means the league will finally be okay and might even be able to expand to more teams and more cities. I feel so proud.

By the way, thanks for putting up with me for this world cup. I know that I drove you and Mom nuts with how much I complained about the team, complained about other teams, worried that we were going to end up going home in the quarterfinal because we had sucked so bad until we played Germany. Thanks for putting up with me cheering and cursing at the top of my lungs, and jumping around the house, ecstatic that we had survived another game. You know, I dreamed about the team every night during the world cup. I dreamed that we won, that we lost, about everyday adventures. I am obsessed with this team, and you and Mom put up that. Especially thanks to Mom, who listened to me worry and stress and almost have a heart attack for the five days leading up to the US playing Germany. That was the team I was worried about the most because they were going to be the biggest test and up until that match, we were winning by the skin of our teeth. We plain sucked and I knew that there was no way we were going to beat Germany, and I was so scared of watching the match and seeing my team in tears and devastation after losing to Germany. Mom heard it every night from me as she washed dishes, and even up until the match started. She was the first one to laugh at me when we ended up beating Germany 2-0, telling me that I had been so sure that we were going to lose and that I had no faith in my own team. That was actually really special to me. I think that’s when she finally really realizes how much I love this team. For the last couple of years leading up to the world cup, she’s been listening to me complain or cheer about the team every now and then. She listened to complain about Hope Solo getting into trouble yet again. She listened to me yell and complain about losing to France and Brazil when we’re ten times better than them. She listened to me cheer when we won our friendlies and other matches leading to the world cup. And she bought me an Abby Wambach t-shirt for Christmas. I ended up wearing that shirt every time the U.S. played and we never lost a match. So, when I get my new U.S. jersey, I’m framing that shirt.

I love you.

August 4, 2015

Dear Dad,

After your blood transfusion, I feel like everything has gone downhill. Last month the doctor said that your bone morrow was starting to be affected by the chemo, along with your red blood cell count. So, they said you had to have a blood transfusion, two pints. Jonathan came home for two weeks, so he’s been taking you to radiation in the morning, and then we both went with you to chemo and blood transfusion. We spilt the time between us, but I logged more hours. Watching the blood slowly drain down the tube into your chest is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. I thought for sure I was going to pass out once or twice. But you needed it, Dad. You were finally starting to look sick. You were pale and your hair isn’t growing back so for the first time in my life, you were bald. Legitimately bald. I think that more than anything is what makes my stomach hurts. All the doctors said that after the transfusion you were feel better and I believed them.

Instead for the last few weeks you’ve been getting weaker and weaker. I’m spending most of the day watching you sleep, scared you might die with me in the other room if I don’t. I know it annoys you because you’ll look at me and shake your head. I can’t help it though, twice on my watch you’ve hurt yourself and now I’m super paranoid. I watch fight to catch your breath all the time. You walk around for ten minutes before stopping because you can’t breathe and then you sleep for three hours. You’re not taking your vitamin C anymore and you refuse to drink anymore carrot juice or smoothies. You and Mom fight all the time. She’s trying to keep you alive and I know you feel like crap and that’s why you get angry and yell at her, but she’s trying so hard, Dad, because she’s scared. You make her cry. That hurts me, seeing her so upset because it looks like you don’t care anymore about trying to stay healthy. She’s scared and so am I.

I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to leave you. I like staying home and keeping an eye on you. I like helping you out around the house because you need it and I like when you pat me on the arm and you say, “Thanks, Brini.” I feel like I’m finally making the difference I wanted to when I moved back home. But I’m also watching you get sicker and sicker. You’re starting to lose weight and your arms are covered in bruises. You look like you’re been in a fight. When you take your glasses off, you look exhausted. You look so, so tired. Like you’re about to give up. Mom says that you tell her you’ll keep fighting, but I’m starting to think otherwise.

Mom got a call from the clinic a couple of days telling her that your white blood cell count was low. That means you aren’t strong enough to handle the chemo. I was waiting for this to happen. For the chemo starting to slowly take away your ability to fight. Your radiation was called off and tomorrow you and Mom will find out how long your chemo will be delayed. You’re almost always in a bad mood and I know you don’t mean it because you feel really bad, but it’s hard to watch you struggle and suffer all day every day. You don’t finish dinner anymore because you get tired of chewing, but you refuse smoothies. You only eat little meals and I can see your strength diminishing. I see you fight to catch your breath after moving around for a little bit. You can’t get comfortable in the living room, but if you stay in your room all day you get lonely. Mom says I can’t stay here past August, but I’m really scared that if I feel you’ll get even worse. I don’t know how to help you and neither does Mom. She’s been busting ass trying to juggle both you and work, but she’s just as exhausted.

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