Dear Daddy

October 20, 2017

Dear Daddy,
I never told anyone about my experience with your cancer. But I want you to know it before anyone else. Driving home from California. Do you remember that trip? Mom kept saying something was wrong with you. I didn’t believe her, there would never be anything wrong in this family.
A few days after we got home you went to the doctor because mom was paranoid. Matthew and I went to a swim meet without a worry in the world. We were waiting for you and mom to show up and cheer for us at the end of the lane. We waited all day, and just before my last race, I saw mom – just mom. But I still couldn’t think anything was wrong. It wasn’t until I went up to coach and he told me to find mom. We all walked to the car and in there she told us. She told us you had terminal brain cancer. We all sat and cried there so we wouldn’t in front of you. You were laying on the bed when we came in. we tried to act like nothing happened. You and mom stayed there for you to get treatments. I stayed home to take care of Matthew and grandma. People would come to the door, they’d say they are sorry, they’d give us food, and leave.
When you came home everything remained the same, except it wasn’t. We continued living normal just with a lot more doctor’s appointments and a ton more medicine. We’d go to Seattle every now and then for bigger and better treatments, until they gave up trying to help and just let you go.
For a year everything was pretty good. You’d forget some stuff, but it was never a big issue. You’d come watch me swim and get ready for state, which you couldn’t wait to see me win.
One week before state my sophomore year, I was brought home by Colleen to an ambulance. You didn’t feel good and felt you needed medical treatment. We were at the hospital until about 11:47 pm. I was scared that was the night. But we left that night and it was all good again.
A week later I won state, which was possible but unlikely. I won it for you. God I’m glad I won it for you, because that’s the last time you saw me race. Christmas came and we took too many pictures but still not enough. At this time your memory loss was starting to show. When I went to the teams annual swim meet, Washington Open, I called you guys every night and mom would tell me that you’d worry all day because you couldn’t remember if I called yet. When I got back I found out you had started arguing with mom and Matthew over little things, but you didn’t know any better. It was hard to picture that happening, until you did it to me all because I didn’t know Christopher Walken. Words can’t even describe how scary that was, how almost psychotic you were about him. Saying things that weren’t true and didn’t make sense and it was all because of this awful cancer you had in your head. This was when I realized how sick you actually were.
Through February these episodes happened more and more. I can’t tell you how many times mom and I had to comfort a crying Matthew after you’d say words to him you’d never say if you weren’t sick. He was hurt, but, of course sweet Matthew was never mad, he knew you didn’t mean it and that you couldn’t control all that you said.
In March I went to my biggest meet yet, Senior Sectionals, with Sakaiya and her mom. You and mom wanted to see me swim but you would never make the trip. Every time I called or mom called me, I’d worry I was going to hear those words. Every second of the day I was there, I’d worry for that phone call. Thank god it didn’t come.
We continued our lives like we had before. Uncle Mike even came to visit. One day Uncle Mike was visiting and things were good, until he left. You got mad at mom for trying give you your meds. She went to the kitchen to avoid more conflict and you complained to Matthew and me. We tried to defend her in a way you’d understand. “She wants you to take the meds so you stay alive.” You didn’t understand and started yelling at Matthew and me for defending her, saying so many cruel things you never in your right mind would never say. It was so scary and painful to watch, we all started crying on the other side of the room. We asked Uncle Mike to drive back to help calm you down. He walked in the door and you forgot everything that just happened. You were you again. You never wanted anyone to see how sick you really were. You didn’t want anyone to see you suffer, but you couldn’t hide it from us, we could always see it.
The next day was a Thursday, Hospice came to take you to their care center. But when hospice comes, there’s a reason, and we all knew it. After school we went to Hospice House to see you. You were sleeping so peaceful that no one wanted to wake you, so we all did our own quiet thing. I did homework while mom and Matthew talked to you as you slept. I hate myself for not talking to you there. As we were leaving, mom and Matthew kissed your forehead and said they loved you. I wasn’t going to, not because I didn’t love you but because if I did I’d feel like I was saying goodbye and giving up on you. Mom told me to, so I went to your bed side and kissed your fore head and told you, with the most meaning I’ve ever put into these words, “I love you daddy.”
I’m so grateful she had me do that , because that was the last thing I ever said to you. That night we got a call at about 9:30 pm. Matthew and I were in bed and didn’t know what the call was about. We didn’t even know mom left to see you after that call. Friday morning we were getting ready for school and mom pulled us to the table to talk. She told us that you had died last night, a little before the phone call.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next. All I know is the tears streaming down my face were stinging. Looking around to see mom and Matthew crying just as hard brought only more pain to me. I didn’t want them to have to hurt either. So I’d be the rock from now on. They would grieve and the pain would go away and I had to help them do it. I tried to go to school, to try to get my life normal fast. Hoping they would follow. But reality was starting to check in and I didn’t feel I could go to school anymore. I didn’t need the “I’m sorry” and “are you okay?” because I’d only cry. I can’t let anyone see me cry. I have to be strong just like how you taught me.
A week later was your funeral. It took lots of planning, but you had already planned everything exactly the way you wanted it. The whole family came, yours and even moms. Every family member was there. Every friend you’ve had, came that day. It was hard to see them cry, but I wouldn’t cry.
When they brought out the casket was when I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I couldn’t hold back the tears this time. I couldn’t stay strong this time because in that casket was a cold lifeless person that I used to hug, kiss and say “I love you” too. That lifeless person was you, my daddy. The daddy I wont get anymore. The daddy that I can only see in memories. The daddy I have to write letters to in order to feel like I’m talking to him. The casket was the final piece of the puzzle for me. This piece meant the puzzle was complete and with its completion, you were gone. You wont come back. And with the final piece coming in through the door, I completely understood you were dead and you were no longer here.
Much of the funeral I don’t remember. I remember beautiful flowers and slide shows of good times you put together. But all the speeches and words that I already knew, I can’t remember.
The last thing before we went to the burial, you had left letters for your 3 kids. So Jay handed Jenny, Matthew and me letters. Letters that you wrote. We watched you go into the ground and that was it, you were really gone forever” ¦
Its almost two years later, and I still haven’t read your letter, I’m not sure why but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe because it’s the last little thing keeping you alive, not knowing what your final words were.
My experience with your cancer was so hard. It was hard to watch you suffer. It was hard to see you forgetting. It was hard to see you slowly going away. It was hard to watch you die. But the thing I’m finding hardest is trying to live without you. But I’ll stay strong and work hard just like how you taught me. Now daddy you’re the only who gets to hear this from me, so don’t go telling everyone, haha. I miss you. And I love you. I hope you can remember what it sounds like when I say those words, because I still remember how it sounded when you said them to me. -Your Baby Girl
Makenzie Norman