A father, teacher, friend...the wind beneath my wings.

Tina T

During the month of May 1996, my Dad began losing weight. He had all his bottom teeth pulled in early April, as well as a root canal on one of his top teeth in late April. He was not eating much solid food. So it was not surprising to us that he was losing some weight. We thought when his dentures came in, and he started eating again, he would be fine. In early June, he still hadn’t received his dentures and he was still losing weight. He stopped eating anything solid because he had choked a couple of times and, I think, this scared him. We bought him some Ensure and he began drinking two cans a day along with a little soup, jello or yogurt. When Father’s Day weekend came, I went to visit him. He also had a birthday the day after Father’s Day, June 17th. I had written a poem for him for Father’s Day and his birthday but when I got there, he seemed even thinner and weaker than the week before. I decided not to give him the poem because I didn’t want him to think I wrote it just because I felt sorry for him. I decided to wait until he got better, then he would know I wrote it because I loved him.

I visited my Mom and Dad the following weekend, June 23rd. I made my visit short that day, only 3 hours. I almost couldn’t stand to see my Dad so weak, barely able to walk, and when he did he had to hold his pants up to keep them on, he was so thin. Again, I decided to hold off on giving him the poem. He would be getting his dentures soon. Then, once he was better, I’d give him my poem. When we were leaving, my Mom whispered to my two sons to give PaPa a big hug because "you never know when you’ll have another chance." I cried the whole way home.

Little did I know my Mom had taken my Dad to the ER at 2:00am the morning I was there because he wasn’t feeling good. He didn’t want anyone to know, he didn’t want anyone worrying about him. He had been having a pain just under his breast-bone. They did X-rays and other tests and told him to make an appointment to see his doctor. He went to the doctor the next day, Monday, June 24th. The doctor said he would know more when the test results came back. Dad didn’t want to be admitted to the hospital so the doctor sent him home to await the test results. Two days later, Wednesday, June 26th, my Dad could take the pain no longer. My Mom and sister, Joyce, drove him to the hospital. That night, Joyce called to say that the X-rays showed three spots on his lungs. The doctors could tell the tumors did not start in the lungs, that it had spread to the lungs from somewhere else. They gave him 60 days to live. That same day, the dentist called to say that my Dad’s dentures were ready. What irony.

The next day, Thursday, June 27th, they did a cat scan of my Dad’s abdominal cavity. They found tumors everywhere; stomach, kidney, liver, pancreas, esophagus. The largest was baseball size on his esophagus. This was the reason he was choking and losing weight. The pulling of his teeth only camouflaged his cancer. They gave him 30 days to live.

The following day, Friday, June 28th, they did a biopsy of the tumor on his esophagus. The results were very bad. They said death was "imminent." One of my sisters, Michelle, was on vacation. When she left for vacation the previous Friday, she gave me a phone number where they could be reached. I never thought I would have to use it. When she left for vacation, we were still thinking Dad just needed to get his teeth. Now, only one week later, I had to call her to tell her that Dad had cancer and wasn’t expected to live much longer.

On Monday, July 1st, the doctor said Dad would be able to go home with hospice care. On Tuesday, July 2nd, they made arrangements with Hospice for him to come home Wednesday. I stayed with Mom that night and was waiting for Hospice to come the next morning to deliver the hospital bed. My brother, Ed, called at 9:00 that morning and said that Dad had a bad night. He wouldn’t be coming home today, maybe Friday. He said he would call back later. By 11:30am, no one had called from the hospital. I was beginning to get anxious. My oldest sister, Sue, and her husband arrived at the house. She called my Dad’s room and my sister Joyce answered. Sue said that she, Larry (her husband) and I were going to eat lunch and then come up to the hospital. Joyce said don’t stop for lunch, come straight to the hospital. We called my brother Lou to come to the hospital ASAP.

When we got there, I went to his room and his bed was made!! I thought I was too late, then a nurse said that he had been moved to a private room. Soon, we were all there except for my brother Lou. We were praying for him to hurry so that he could see Dad one more time. He finally arrived at 2:30pm. When he walked in, we said, "Dad, Lou’s here." My Dad, who was so weak, sat up in bed and held out his hands. We all reached for his hands, we told him we loved him, he said he loved us, too. He said, "Take care of your kids," we said we would, we had a great teacher. Then, he said, "Bye", and laid back down. He didn’t wake again. He died the next day, July 4th, at 7:44pm. He was our father, our teacher, our friend….he was the wind beneath our wings.

My dad never did read the poem I wrote for him. I should have known better than to think he would think I was feeling sorry for him. I hope he knows how much I love him. Here is the poem I wrote for him:

Hands of Time

by Tina T

When I was growing up
all I wanted to be
was big and strong
just like my Dad
who meant so much to me.

I thought my only problem
was being the wrong size.
If I could just grow up
then I, too,
would be so very wise.

The way I would measure
how much I had grown
was to take his hand
and hold it up
to one of my own.

When I looked at our hands
I knew deep in my soul
I wanted to be
just like him
it would be a lifetime goal.

The day my child was born
my father was the one
to take my hand
and hold it up
to one of my son’s.

Then he told me something
I never will forget,
"Cherish your child,
nurture your child,
and you’ll have no regrets."

As I sit and hold my child
I can only hope and pray
my son will hold
his hand to mine
and hope to be like me someday.

Tina T


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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW