Driving through the familiar streets, absolutely nothing has changed in the town that I’m from. I didn’t have time to go out or see old friends, but I did take a moment out to visit all my favorite spots and to walk by my old stomping grounds. That was odd and probably overly dramatic. I’m aware that none of this makes sense. It was like, I had been here before so many times, but I am so completely unattached from it all. Aside from my parents, there is nothing here for me here. After all, this was the place I had gone through some of my most traumatic experiences, the absolute worst days of my life, (including the best) all happened here. It’s just weird to be here. I can’t really put it into words. I’m just a visitor from another city. I’m here, but I’m not totally there. The sole purpose for this trip was to be there for my dad, even if it was a short visit. Home is not a place. It is only found in the arms of your loved ones.
You know how every house has a distinct smell unless you live there every day? It’s not a bad smell. Just a smelly smell. Warm, inviting, comforting to the soul, with a hint of the laundry detergent your mom uses. Every time I visit home, I leave a t-shirt in the drawer. And every time I leave, I take the previous t-shirt and replace it with another. I do this so I can take the “smell” of my home back to my apartment in Florida.
Road to Recovery
In other news, my dad has seen better days. Even when he was in the infantry for three months during the Vietnam War. He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last Thanksgiving, but in between insurance paperwork, preparing for treatment as well as having tests performed, and talking with various doctors to make sure the right path took about 5 months. After his successful bone marrow transplant and a portable IV tube was inserted into his chest, my dad officially started chemo. In 8 days, he lost 18 pounds. The hair comes out in chunks. Zero appetite. Unable to do tasks alone. Has a walking cane. Insomnia. Moody on most days and quiet on his best days. My mom urged him to cut his hair but he relented. On my last day, he asked me to take him to shave his head off.
On another separate occasion, I was on my brother’s Snapchat while my mom made dinner and showed my dad so he could see him on his day trip to some waterpark in Texas. My dad said you’re still young, that’s what you should do, live and do things. Even in his condition, he still encourages us to live. I was pretty moved, actually. Because my brother and I live in different cities, we will have to take turns this summer flying home this summer.
The Power of Postive Thinking
Reaffirmations, words of encouragement and being optimistic makes a huge impact. The mind is a very powerful tool that we sometimes forget to use to its fullest potential. I can see my mom is exhausted, frustrated, tired. Being a caretaker is a full-time job, but keeping up with the house, taking care of our dog, bathing and cooking for my father while maintaining the yard, cleaning, etc. is a job within itself. I can see my dad losing faith, feeling like a burden, lifeless from chemicals injected into his body on top of multiple supplements of antibiotics and other meds he needs to take daily. I was in a cheerful mood all weekend despite what I was feeling for the sake of everyone and I think it rubbed off on my parents. I spoke with them both on separate occasions that once this is all over, we can take vacations, we can go anywhere, we can do anything. We have so much to look forward to.
In my culture, we are bound by family no matter what, held to a severity. Nothing is more important than your parents. Especially being a woman, traditionally I am to look after my parents until the end of time, otherwise, I’d be shamed in the community. Technically, I’m not even supposed to move out unless I’m married. To have my own life and be as independent as I am, many of my family members have not come around to this new game changer. Of course, I love my parents with all my heart. I do plan on looking after my family. The circumstances of me living in a different state sort of hinges this, obviously. My aunt came over to visit my father and explained that I should be home, I should be taking care of my dad. I should give up everything and just move back home. She said I will regret not being there for my father. I am doing what I can, and I feel guilty for living so far away from my family. C’est la vie. Such is life. You can’t have it all. A career, a partner, family, friends, money, hobbies, health, time, kids, … or can you? Yes. Yes, you can. In due time.
My mom had been reenergized from having a weekend off from caretaking duties. On Sunday, she went out with her friends for karaoke night while I ordered a pizza in with my dad. My dad’s spirit was lifted because he gained a pound (this is huge for cancer patients) and his blood count is up. Took my dog to get her nails trimmed and dog food so that should last her another month before I come back again. I also got a Brita water pitcher for them so my mom doesn’t have to buy or carry heavy packs of water bottles by herself anymore. If you don’t have one, go get one. It will literally change your life for just $20. My father has a hard time drinking water because his taste buds/throat are all kinds fucked up right now, so he actually became very dehydrated and the nurses complained that to me. I got Crystal Lite and other drink flavor mixers. He was now able to semi-enjoy water. Mission accomplished.
Someday, One Day…
Me on the other hand, well I left with hope. For better days to come. My one true source of strength and resilience has been my dad all my life. Now the roles have reversed. And I’m ready. Never for a second did I think we couldn’t make it. I know we will beat this. I’m unafraid, as I should be. Someday, one day, this will all be over and we will understand why things had to happen the way it did and we will be at peace knowing we made it.