One Hundred Thousand Wasted Hours

October 20, 2015

Time is an illusion. It is intangible, a mere figment of consciousness; you can’t sculpt it like a piece of clay. Yet for whatever reason, it seems to slow down, speed up, and morph spontaneously whenever anything significant occurs. This “time dilation” occurs whenever hardship strikes you, and until humans understand quantum mechanics and theory enough that we find a way to warp time and tunnel through the fabric of the universe, we will never have control over it. Even without any physically malleable qualities, it controls everything we do and plan, and it dictates what can be changed and what is lost to the ages. Something as ethereal as time has the potential to be infinitely more precious than any diamond or exotic car, but nearly everyone one takes it for granted…I know I did. However, unlike diamonds and sports cars, time can never be purchased or reclaimed if you want a second chance. Not today, not tomorrow, in a year, or an eternity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you wasted it, it sucks for you. If it wasn’t the best of times, to bad. Cancer has a way of making time seem to vanish, and when the time you had with a loved one runs out, all you wanna do is go back and say what you didn’t have the chance to say before.
My time over the past five years has been nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been bullied ever since I was little because of a speech impediment ( I stutter) and I deal with the fear of doing so daily. Furthermore, my parents divorced during my freshman year in high school.
The emotional toll was heavy, like chaining my leg to steel ball. The worst part was after the divorce, my father and I drifted apart. I was never close with my father, but the effect was amplified. I knew of all the things he had done. He degraded the family’s financial situation to a point where my mother had to inherit his mountain of debt, go into bankruptcy, and get more stressed out than anybody deserves to be, all the while refusing to work and help pay the bills. He constantly fought with me for ridiculous and childish reasons, and I did nothing but retaliate and get infuriated. He took up drinking heavily and self-medicating himself to ease the pain of the situation. Because of this, I blamed him for all my sorrow, and for the first time in my life I felt frothing, undeniable, blinding rage.
I didn’t know it at the time, but he was showing symptoms of being clinically depressed and bi-polar. He got diagnosed with this last winter, which explained everything. Nevertheless, I was still furious with him. When someone lives in broken home for many years, you relinquish the idea of forgiveness, something I can attest to personally. I still wonder why my family deserved to go through this, and why our time was wasted. Maybe it was to build character, or we had bad karma, or whatever the reason may be. All I know is that I regret feeling the way I did, because all I want right now is to go back and start over.
The ambiguous concept of lost time hit me like a runaway freight train very recently on Thursday, March 5th, 2015. On that day my father was diagnosed at the age of fifty nine with stage four metastasized melanoma. His oncologist said there are tumors in his lymph nodes, lungs, and spine and with experimental treatment, he could have a couple months left. He may not even see me graduate high school. My relationship with my dad is shattered on a good day, but when I got the call from my mother that he was in the ER due to cancer, I forgot about the past. I ran out of English class and drove fast enough to cause the edge of my vision to blur trying to get to the hospital. When the shadow of death advances suddenly upon anyone you care about, nothing else matters. Nothing.
I immediately regretted the way I acted towards my father and felt disgusted with myself for whatever negative I said before everything fell apart. In the instant I got the call, I realized that even after all we went through, I still love him. He’s my dad, and I’ll only ever have one of him. The saying “if you love someone then let them go” is, quite frankly, ludicrous. When you love someone, even after the both of you go through an emotional minefield, you never want to see them go. I’ve got six months left with my dad at the most, and the both of us are terrified of what’s coming; all I know is that my father is being ripped from my arms before I’ll ever be ready to say goodbye, and the gravity of the situation is destroying my will to care about anything.
Right now, he sits in his home on Samish Island playing his guitars (he’s gotten really good!) and trying his hardest to be positive about the whole situation. The worst part of this whole situation is the fact that he had to find new homes for his dogs, who became his surrogate children after I went hiatus. Cancer has effectively reaped my dad’s dogs from whatever time he has left in his life, and that was the hardest thing to see. Hell would freeze over and I’d ice skate with the Devil before I’d give up my dogs, because they’re my two best buddies. I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it was for him. That was the beginning of the emotional black hole he’s getting sucked into now, and I don’t think he’ll ever see the light of day again in the near future.
I don’t want to admit it, but I think he’s given up. I made him promise me that no matter what, he’d never stop fighting and never let cancer get the best of him. But the combination of the cancer, stress, heartbreak, terror, and pain medications have made that promise impossible to keep. He realizes that the fight was never winnable, just a hopeful figment of the imagination. The arduous part for me is that I’m to stubborn to realize this, and now I’m battling my own demons trying to come to terms with the fact that very soon I’ll never get to talk to him or see him ever again. He’ll only be a memory, an electrical signal arcing from one neuron to the next, and I’ve painfully recognized that the only vivid memories I have of my dad and I are us fighting and antagonizing each other. I’m not going to get the opportunity to go back and create new, fond memories of us together, I’m going to be stuck with the ones I want to forget. But if I forget those memories, than I’ll have nothing left of my father except his belongings, which are worthless and nothing more than the atoms and molecules that make them up. Great memories are the most valuable things people carry with them and never think about. But what is a bad memory worth? This is the conundrum I’m in: I don’t know if I want to forget the eloquent memories of my father which consist of the two of us screaming at each other and him wasting away due to cancer, or if I want to remember the time I had with him…even if it was unfavorable. Are my bad memories worth the pain of remembering my father, or will they prove to be to daunting for me to handle? It’s a case of “pick you poison”, and I’m not sure if I want the snake venom or the cyanide pill. Either choice is going to kill me, it’s just a choice of which one will cause me less pain. If only my dad had more time, if only I had more time, if only we all had more time.
Ryan Arnold