I’m not one to dwell on the past. To be horribly cliche and to quote James Hetfield, “The dawn, the death, the fight to the final breath. What don’t kill you make you more strong”. This is a philosophy, a state of mind, that I embrace. There are, however, two things, two mistakes, two fleeting moments in time, two remembrances from my past, that will stay with me and haunt me forever. I gave a brief reference to these recently when I gave into the facebook “25 things about me” phenomenon. The 17th tidbit that I relayed to a few select friends was short and simple:
I only have two regrets in life.
A few friend who actually took the time to read thru the non-sense and actually paid attention came up to me over the course of the next few days with a look of curiosity stretched across there face. The kind of look that true friends get when they are confronted with a potential new fact about someone they thought they knew so well. I declined their inquires and left them disappointed… but only for a short time. ‘Cuz what better way could I start off a new blog than to give the few that will read this a look into who I am.
I’ll give you all a brief disclaimer before I go any further… This is going to long, its going to be emotional, and its going to be the blunt honest truth. But thats the beauty of all of this isn’t? We all put on our masks as we go about everyday life shielding everyone from truth, from the secrets we hold, the burdens we carry, the personal hell that we all carry with us from day to day. I can walk down the halls at law school, hang out with the guys, or go out for a drink, and no one would know the difference. They see my mask. Well, a few of you asked… and your probably already regretting it… so here is the unmasked truth. Here are my two regrets.
First a bit of background. Both of my parents are dead. My father in a literal sense. My mother in a metaphorical sense… but that is an issue for another day. My dad passed away from melanoma in May of 1999. (A brief footnote… melanoma is “skin” cancer in its most destructive from. Basically melanoma is cancer of the pigment of the skin. So, while it is considered “skin” cancer it can spread to just about any part of the body). I was 14. Dad was diagnosed several years before and went thru all the treatment plans you can think of. Surgery was first. They removed all the tumors that they could including one on his spine just before Thanksgiving. Next came chemo and radiation. Neither worked. The tumors kept spreading. There were experimental treatments, holistic treatments, and spiritual treatments. Each new prospect brought more disappointment and renewed desperation.
Everything came tumbling down in the spring of 1999. Since the winter Dad and I had been planning a trip to Colorado for spring break. But as spring break drew closer it became more and more evident that dad wasn’t going to be well enough to travel. At this point dad was only a fraction of his former self, a skeletal outline of a human being. The walking dead. But walking none the less. After canceling our trip to Colorado, my mother thought it would be best to go to our family condo in Florida for break. So we did. I went and spent a week in the sun, on the beach, going to spring training, enjoying life. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, dad slowly and painfully reached the realization that this was the end. I was only gone for one week but when I came back it was like I had entered a totally different universe. Dad couldn’t walk anymore. A multitude of tumors on this spine and finally destroyed his will to stay on his own two feet. Everyone around him knew what was coming and it did one beautiful morning in early May.
Philosophers and theologians alike claim that in the final days of your life that you can actually foresee your own death. Dad had known he was going to die for months, but as the time approached he began to see the date exactly. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. The salvation that graciously comes to those in dire need. Dad saw his death, he saw his final days, he embraced his rescue. One evening, probably a Monday, my mom brought me over to my grandparents house where my dad was staying. After a brief hello to Grandmom and Granddad and a bit of visiting, dad asked everyone (as planned) if they would leave the room so we could talk. I can’t bear to repeat what was said, but in hindsight it is clear to me that this was meant as his final goodbye. He knew internally, a part of his animal instinct, that his time was near. If not that night, the next morning, or the next evening. It didn’t matter exactly when, but he knew he had precious hours left and this was his last chance to talk to his only son. We talked for hours. A dying man and his 14 year old son, who was totally oblivious to the painfully obvious indications of what was to come. After dad was satisfied and content with the world that he had planned for me everyone came back in and I was informed by my mother that it was time to go. Then came the moment that has haunted me ever since. A remembrance that I will carry around with me as a constant reminder of my demons and the personal hell hidden behind my mask. As I got up from the couch and began to leave the room with mom. But before I left, I uttered the last words I would ever say to my dad.
I’ll see you on Wednesday.
The next morning, in between classes I spotted our guidance counselor, Mrs. Price, entering the 8th grade hallway. I was half way down the hall and had no reason to know that she was coming for me. But from the moment I spotted her weaving in and out of the throngs and my classmates I knew. I stood on the spot transfixed in an aura of realization. My world came crashing down on top of me. She saw it in my eyes and knew. She saw a boy whose heart had just been torn out. A boy whose life had been changed forever. She said nothing. She didn’t have too. She simply took my hand in a warm and caring embrace and lead me to the office where my mother was waiting for me. It was over, he was gone.
I’ll see you on Wednesday.
Anyone who has ever heard this confession has tried to console me by saying: “You were so young. There is no way you could have known”. But I knew. I didn’t know that he was going to finally, mercifully, succumb to his disease that beautiful spring morning in May. But I knew he was dying. So why was I waiting until Wednesday to see him next? Why was I not there everyday? Why did I not take solace in few final months, weeks, days, that I could have spent with him? It’s been nearly ten years to the day since dad passed away and there hasn’t been one day that I haven’t woken up totally disgusted with myself, loathing myself for my stupidity, my naivety.
Dad didn’t see me graduate middle school let alone high school, undergrad, and in a few years law school. I am envious and nearly driven to tears every time hear about my friends going home and having a beer with their fathers. A simple pleasure in life that everyone takes for granted. Except for me. I would give anything in the world for one beer with my dad. Yet ten years ago…
I’ll see you on Wednesday.
Pain like this leaves its mark. There are a select few who have felt it. A fraternity, only visible to each other. Our scars are but whispers to the anesthetized masses who look only inward as they march in rhythm, oblivious to what lies under neither our masks. Our eyes tell tales beyond our years. The pain we keep locked inside is palpable to those who know what to look for. We are mere wisps. So thin and fragile that a strong wind threatens to pick us mercifully up and release us from our burdens. Only flesh and bone anchor us to this mundane world.
We are alone. Always alone. Living our worst fear every day and every night. No one understands. No one wants to understand. However, I have found those who, without a word, have the ability to comprehend. It is a miraculous thing. Nature at its most pure. It is an understanding that can only come from someone who can look into your eyes and see themselves. The same pain. The same loathing. It is a fragile, unspoken connection but its is one that I have staked my life on. Truly, it is something that cannot be described thru words. It is pure emotion, pure instinct.
I think I’ll leave my second regret for another time. I’ve put you all through enough already.