Final Impressions

“A lesson in life”

Written by James Combs

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…

Mortal?

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.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

3 Comments

  • What a good article. I’m so sorry about the cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • James. What a beautiful tribute to your dad He is indeed an awesome human being. Your mom and he mean the world to me and after all life has dished out since I met them and you and your brother back in 1986 the bond remains strong My heart breaks to know that this has happened to your family. Prayers to you all. Stay strong and give your mom and dad gentle hugs from me. God bless

Leave a Comment