My dad is dying, but who cares for me?
Antonella lives on an island in Washington State, America. In July 2014, her stepfather, Russ - whom she called her dad - died. She wrote this piece while Russ was still alive. At the end of her story, following Russ's death, we share a beautiful poem Antonella wrote in tribute to him.
Over 20 years ago my stepfather (who I call my dad) was exposed to toxic chemicals in his job. He and his coworkers almost died. His liver was affected to the point of almost instant necrosis. The doctors at Stanford Medical decided exploratory surgery would be his best option. It ended up becoming experimental surgery as his liver was so toxic it was literally killing him. So the doctors removed all organs that would bypass the liver. Meaning they removed his colon, his small intestine and half of his large intestine, and added an internal colostomy.
This is what I wanted to share: my dad did not lay down to die when recovering from all this surgery. It gave him meaning and purpose to live. He had always wanted a family, so he married my mom, his best friend, taking on two troubled daughters who were not even in their teens yet. Wow! He began to get stronger by involving himself in every sport possible. From kayaking to mountain bike riding, snowboarding and, finally, tennis.
I write here today to send the message that even when death rips out your insides and lurks around every morning, there is always the strength to go on. He told me once he would stay strong with his family and his sense of humour. Shall I ruin this amazing story by informing you that after 20 years my dad's liver has become his worst enemy? It is time now for him to finally rest. Though he is not dead, lying prone is just as traumatising for him - and us.
I am doing OK. If I dared to feel, I would not survive. I am strong for my mother. I take care of her now. Who cares for me in my worst depression? I make a point to see my dad everyday, no matter how yellow the jaundice has made him. I want to remember his laughter.
Antonella's poem for Russ
Mom squeezed in beside Russ on his twin bed
It was not long before they were snoring in unison
Covers to their shoulders pure comfort
Each cat jumped on the bed.
One on their head
I almost took a photo.
I did in my head
In bed they slept together at last Mom awoke to put drops in his eyes
Eyes that held life no more
She held him for an hour
24 years of memories streaming down her cheeks
She removed his clothes
Washed his body clean
Brushed his hair
Hospice just came
Almost 12 hours later
They took away the bed
They took away mom and Russ's last moment together
Now she naps