Today is the one year anniversary of the death of my father from a horribly painful disease - bone cancer. I called in sick to work today and I really am - from a broken heart. Actually, this entire month has been very sad and everything reminds me of him lately.
My mom and dad met on a blind date and had me when my mom was 17 and my dad 19. I was an only child until age 10, when my sister Genevieve was born. I always appreciated having young parents, especially as I got older. My dad was kind to everyone, helping stranded motorists, slipping me and my sister $50 bucks when mom wasn't around. He was also known for the big bear hugs he gave to all the people he loved. My dad was a mechanic (I had my first car at 12!), and he loved to hang out in his "shop" tinkering on transmissions in his spare time. He was the ultimate Mr. Fix It. My dad always smelled like grease, and the only time it came out from under his fingernails is when he and mom would go to Hawaii or Mexico for a few months each winter.
Last year started like any other, except that we had a family holiday in Hawaii in February. My mom and dad, Genny and her husband and mine. Then last summer my dad went to the doctor because he had pain in his hip and back that wouldn't go away. The doctor had decided to do an x-ray. They sent my dad home with some anti-inflamatories telling him they would have the results in a few days,but as he and my mom were leaving the x-ray technician came running out - there appeared to be a large tumor.
My parents lived in Canada, and healthcare is "rationed" and limited facilities are available. After agonizing weeks of waiting a biopsy revealed a rare form of cancer - bone cancer in his hip, tail bone and surrounding tissue. It was already huge and inoperable. My dad had to drive four hours to Victoria in agonizing pain to the only cancer facility on Vancouver Island. There they tried radiation and one round of chemo. I drove him down once and can still vividly see my dad sitting in my passenger seat trying to get comfortable. It quickly became apparent that the treatments weren't working. I drove up there Thanksgiving weekend '99 only to be greeted by my dads whimpers of pain, moans, and mom telling me that the ambulance was coming to take him to the hospital. He was still glad to see me, and I cried all the way to the hospital, alone in my car behind the ambulance. I left a few days later because I had to go back to work. What was I thinking? He never left the hospital again.
A couple of weeks later my dad developed pneumonia and my mom urged me to come back up. I must of been in denial because I almost didn't go. The hospital called the morning of December 11th and tactfully told us to come in as soon as we could. Apparently we breath differently when the end is almost upon us. The night before we were with him and he was alert (they had placed a spinal block in to alleviate the pain and it didn't make him delusional). As we were leaving the last thing he said to me was "I love you, Shelly". The next morning he was unconscious. My mom, sister and grandma and me all held, stroked and kissed him as his breathing slowed. My mom told him it was ok to let go of his painful body. Goose bumpscame up on this flesh, then he took his final breath. He was only 54 years old.
As we left the hospital that morning, I couldn't get over how the world around us just goes on like nothing has happened. I am a successful business person and routinely spend the better part of 12 hours going to or being at work. Why didn't I quit my job, take a leave, whatever to be with him? Denial, shock, being scared of not being able to control the situation? I think of him everyday and keep asking myself why I continue to let work dominate my life. I love my dad like I will love no other on this earth.
Too Young to Die
I was grateful to have you for 34 years
But you were still too young to die
I may seem cold or hard sometimes
But I'm just like you inside
You helped shape who I am
You were a very good loving man
You should still be here
You made me laugh and feel so loved
We all miss you so much
When will I see you again
I hope you found peace and the purpose
Because you deserved it
But you were still too young to die daddy
Christian Vilhelm Haagen Ipsen III
April 15, 1945 to December 11, 1999
Michaele Ipsen Palmer