My Worst Fear

So I’m still trying to ride the wave from my last scan. For those who missed it, the tumor has continued to shrink. The flip side of that coin, however, is that my liver numbers are up. On the whole though, this is a good thing and I’m engaged in life to the fullest extent I can be. 

For as good as that news is, I’ve been having some weird vibes. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some daydream flashbacks and experienced phantom smells that remind me of specific bad days I had in Houston at MDACC. I’m not sure why or how, these things happen, it’s just kind of creepy when they do. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, and it’s no big deal. Never a dull moment my friends. 

One of the benefits of the cancer diagnosis and the process of squaring up to my mortality is that I’ve been able to clearly see and honestly accept truths I otherwise might have skirted. As it relates to this post, it may surprise you to know that Father’s Day is a melancholy, if not downright sad time for me. Actually- I’ll be brutally honest- the day brings abject terror. One might suspect that the reason for this is my own failed relationship with my father. (I’m not going back in on that one, but if you want the story, you can find it here.) He’s not to blame for this one however. This one is down to me and (one of) my (many) imperfections.

Before we go any farther, I’m completely aware that I’m not the only dad that loves his kids. I’m not the only guy whose identity is wrapped up in fatherhood. But hey, this is not a competition. I’m not asserting that fatherhood means more to me than other dads, or anything like that. I’m not trying to be preachy about being a dad, or suggest that I somehow have insights that other don’t- I’m just sharing some thoughts, so just follow me if you will. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I have a hard time conceiving of myself outside of my role as a father. This is one of the more meaningful things that I’ve come to recognize about myself over the past year. The fact that I am a dad makes me what I am- and this is not a mere platitude. I’m a designer, I’m a cook, I’m a consultant, I’m a traveler, I’m a cancer patient- but when I think about who I AM, the answer is dad. 

Here then is the rub- despite the fact that I’m completely invested in this role, I feel like I’ll ultimately be a failure at what matters most to me. My concern is centered in how things that happen now will affect my kids in the future, and about how humans are hardwired. I’ve forgotten the numbers, but we’ve all heard them- it takes X number of positive experiences to cancel out just one negative. When I look back upon my experiences with my biological father, the specific negative memories are far more numerous than the good ones. I suspect, however, that in reality things were much more balanced than I recall. Every time I screw up now, I’m mortified to think that a particular negative incident is what they will remember of me. Even if I live a few more years, by the time they’re in their twenties, they will have lived more than half their life without me. They will have only their childhood memories of me. Will months and (hopefully years) of happy memories be trumped by single, boneheaded, negative comments? I don’t have years to continue to build our relationships. I can’t tilt the scales as they become adults. I won’t have a chance to influence the narrative. Does the nature of how humans process negative experiences doom my kids to remembering the worst of me? 

On a daily basis, I do a good job of trying to create memories for the boys (if I do say so myself). I’ve tried to play as active a role in their lives as is possible (and healthy). Above all, I recognized very early on that my time and undivided attention are the very best gifts I could ever give them. When I’ve done wrong I ask for forgiveness and do my best to make up for whatever I’ve done. Despite my best efforts and intents, however, it may all be for naught. Negative words and experiences are like bullets that can’t be put back into the barrel. Those marks are on the ledger- no matter how stacked the other side is. The thought that these marks carry more weight, and may ultimately influence how the boys remember me, stirs a deep and gut-twisting grief that’s commensurate with my identity as dad.

We’re not capable of perfection. My boys, however, are a perfect gift from God. Do they not then deserve perfection from me? If my self-image, my focus, my raison d’être is grounded in my identity as father, what is my life worth if I don’t deliver in that regard? No matter how hard I try, I’m nowhere near as good a father as they deserve. 

The wonderful thing about kids is that they are resilient, and have a way of seeing through to the truth. I can only hope that when the boys remember the specific times that I’ve been a shitty dad that they will feel a mitigating comfort derived from all of the great (but perhaps less memorable) times we’ve had together. Who knows how that will work- and I guess that’s why this day puts me on edge so much.

Accept my apologies for being a Debbie Downer on what should otherwise be a happy and joyous day to be shared within the family. And, by the way, please don’t cry for us! It takes several days from the time I draft a post until it shows up for your reading pleasure (by which time I’m always over whatever mod I was in during the writing process).  Rest assured that the boys and I are doing great, enjoying the summer, doing a bit of travel, and loving on each other every day. 

"Yes Christian,  Big <3,  Noel Gallagher"

This week's listen: My Facebook friends are no doubt aware that one of my dear friends from my New Mexico days managed to get me a signed album with a personalized note from the one and only, favorite artist of mine Noel Gallagher. I've posted just about every one of his tunes already, these tracks are no doubt repeats, but they are in heavy rotation at the moment. Tune. Tune.  Tune.

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