My father may no longer be invincible, but he’ll never be invisible.
In her prime, your mom was a real-life Energizer Bunny, hopping from one task to another without breaking a sweat. Now, she walks with a cane. In his younger years, your Herculean-like father could split wood like a lumberjack. Today, he rarely ventures outside due to unrelenting back pain.
Accepting that your parents are no longer invincible is frightening. I never reached this state of acceptance until the age of 42. It happened in March when an oncologist uttered horrifying words to my dad:
“You have lung cancer.”
There was no reason for this. He quit smoking more than 30 years ago. He and my mom regularly ride bicycles at various trails throughout Florida. There was no family history of lung cancer. He never vacationed near Chernobyl. For me, the horrific news came with a harsh dose of reality. The superhero who taught me how play basketball and shoot a gun, the idol who escaped the poverty of Appalachia to make something of himself, the indestructible man who at age 70 seemed to be in really good health suddenly was…
It was a bitter pill to swallow. Thoughts I’ve never had before raced through my head. If I lost a parent, I’d lose part of myself. Our immediate family would never be whole again. Staring at his empty seat would completely take the joy out of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sure, I have friends who have lost parents. In fact, I’ve even lost some friends. However, it took my dad being diagnosed with a horrible disease to truly grasp the fragility of life and to come to the realization that he is indeed vulnerable.
Now that I’ve had time to ponder this reality, I’ve accepted that it’s not such a bad thing. In fact, knowing he’s not invincible is one of the traits I now most admire about my dad. I know now that my dad has fears—the same fears that sometimes nag at me. I realize that he is a normal person who, like me, is capable of getting hurt and needing help. Most importantly, I realize my dad is more real and closer to me than I could have ever imagined.
Not because he’s a superhero.
Because he’s human.