My mother insisted we all dress up in our 1970's best attire and head for the flashing bulbs.
Father Scholls was the priest in charge of this church and school; I remember him being one of the truest, most kindest souls I'd ever been around, plus, he was funny. The priest's collar didn't stop him from being a jokester.
On this evening, my dad was complaining and whining about having to go through this family picture. Even after we arrived to the church to wait our turn in the worship center so we could go into the little room set-up for the photographs, my dad still loudly moaned and groaned. Not one to be deterred by complainers, I think the priest-father kind of went into a stare-off contest with the burly father of three in order to get this picture taken.
The priest was loyal to my mother; she was one of his best teachers and my sister attended school there as well --- perfect attendance I might add. Anyway, the priest fully expected my father to behave like a big boy for the family photo. I don't think my dad could ever accurately size-up the priest due to the robe hiding potential muscle power, so the priest got what he wanted, and my mom got the family photo she longed to have so we could all be tortured for years and years to come.
I think my dad managed to crack a "cheese" smile, simple because the priest got his way, but I can almost see my dad's mouth moving in this photo...you can imagine what he is saying under his breath. Some people just don't know how to play nice unless they're scared of the lightening bolt zapping them. My mother looks rather giddy.
|Mom, Bubba, Robin, Me, Dad|
My sister is the adorable blonde. Robin always has a smile on her face; she's now one of my best-friends in the world! The many years between our age no longer makes a difference. Of course, I'm the goofy, gawky teenager in the back, probably around 12 years old, with the feathered hair that I managed to do everyday, in spite of having curls and no flat-iron at my disposal. Bubba, the brother, well, he was very handsome in his suit and was probably trying to pinch me while also being scared that I actually WOULD throw him through a window, as I always threatened, any window, the closest window. I'd pick him up and RUN to it as he screamed for mercy. Ahhh...those were the days.
My mother...I look at her and see her beauty, inside and out. I see her fighting spirit that led her to conquer so many challenges. She would die at 57 years of age, from breast cancer, but she lived from the age of five as a "survivor" of Polio. Therefore, she lived almost her ENTIRE life as a SURVIVOR.
And my dad, he might have been a royal jerk on this evening, but these days, he's a great friend. To be fair, I guess his macho personality meant he couldn't express excitement and eagerness over a family photo. Perhaps the "jerk" routine was the best route for him to take. These days, even if I didn't know him as my dad, he'd still be a fun person to be around. He's one of those mean old goats that chilled out with age. Maybe it's the bad knees or the worn out part of him that realized angry young men turn into angry old men, if they aren't willing to change. My dad probably says at least one wonderful, uplifting thing to me every week --- one way or another. He lets me vent. He's a man who has learned to listen and to actually give wise advice.
There's no shortage of loving support from my dad. However, I do my part as well. I am happily there for my dad when he needs me and even when he doesn't.
Since my mom passed away from cancer, my dad has battled his own bout with cancer. To the week of the first year anniversary of losing mom to cancer, dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. A tumor was removed that put him at Stage 4 due to tumor size, but the miracle was the huge tumor had not grown through the bladder wall yet and the doctor managed to save his bladder, barely. The surgery would not be without major pain from a surgically thinned out bladder wall. But, the outcome was truly a miracle. I sat in the surgery room the morning of his surgery, by myself, saying my prayers. I had dug my sunglasses out of my purse and put them on at one point because I knew the tears were coming. I could not imagine our family going through the cancer routine so soon, especially as we were going through the first year anniversary of my mom's death.
An elderly woman saw me hiding behind my book with my ridiculous sunglasses, but that didn't stop her. I guess with age comes boldness. She rose from her seat and sat next to me...asking if she could pray with me. I can't tell you what a huge outreach her risking her own vulnerability meant to me. I told her that my dad had a tumor found on a scan, and the surgeon was trying to biopsy it, remove it, or remove his bladder, as we were speaking. Dad had been warned that he might wake up without a bladder, they knew the tumor was large. I also explained that I was especially on edge because it was also the week anniversary of my mom being gone for a year, due to cancer. The old lady waved over a GROUP of people and they circled me and began to pray. It was overwhelming. A traveling prayer group...or a big family or group of friends...I don't know, but it was powerful in a loving and positive way.
Wow. It wouldn't perhaps change the outcome, but it did help me cope with what was to come a couple of hours later.
The surgeon, Dr. Hemphill, came out a couple of hours later, covered in surgical garb, with sweat pouring down his face and he loudly proceeded to tell me that the tumor had been removed, but there was no doubt it was cancer. He pulled out these sheets of paper that had a series of pictures on them and he pointed to photo after photo that showed the tumor; it was discolored and large and beastly looking. He stood at the entrance to the waiting room with everyone listening...who could blame them? He said the tumor was "Big, Bad and Ugly" and the easiest to spot as cancer, and he was positive the biopsy would only confirm his diagnosis. I was a bit shocked, but very appreciative of his candid communication.
Needless to say, I think everyone in the room felt deflated, but I assured them that their prayers would have lasting value and the peace they shared with me, the strength in things bigger than a tumor, helped me digest the news.
My dad, whether fully drugged up or with a clear system, kept flirting with the nurses. I mean SHAMELESSLY flirting. I'd been with him as they prepped him for surgery and as they had injected the medication to "relax" him and I'd been with him through the hours of recovery, as he was still groggy. If he could open his mouth, he was hitting on a nurse...asking if they were ready to go dancing that evening. He was a BAD boy! All I could do was stand there and roll my eyes. But, everyone got a kick out of his joking around, in spite of his scary situation of knowing there was a tumor to confront, he kept his humor about him. I think the nurses appreciated his good attitude and knew he was also nervous.
But, the best part...my sweet revenge, came later that afternoon, after he began to regain his clear-head. Since he KNOWS he's bad WITHOUT drugs in his system he began to worry about how he behaved as he was under the influence of surgical drugs. With trepidation, he began to ask me, "Did I get too out of line while under sedation? Did I give any of the nurses too much of my good charm?"
I gave him a serious expression with a tad bit of embarrassment, and half-whispered, "Dad, it was only bad after you starting hitting on the male nurse. They didn't know what to do with you"
His eyes grew huge and horrified, "No Sh*t? Why did I do that? There must be an explanation...Did he look like a gal?"
I did the one eyebrow in the air bit, "Oh no, he was built with big guns on display, over six foot and definitely no mistaking his maleness, especially with that mustache. You don't remember the mustache?"
Dad's deep shade of red began to be chased by a sickly looking green color. The funny part is...he'd actually had a really cute, young blonde nurse that had been good-natured about his flirting, so I knew he was imagining HER, but doubting what he'd seen because of the medication in his system.
Awww, these are such beautiful moments between father and daughter. I think the priest from my mom's school would've been proud of me!
I busted up and let him off the hook, "No dad, even sedated, you kept your preferences in order for your macho image...strictly harassing the female nurses. In fact, there weren't any male nurses on duty to help you."
After this conversation, it wasn't so hard for him to hear that he had cancer. At least he wasn't hitting on the male nurses...all was right in the world.
Have I mentioned that I love my dad?
And after horrific treatment that lasted a year, which made him very sick...he's hit the five-year mark without a return of cancer. He lived with me during that year, and I'm glad he let me help him through the worst of it.
By the way, I think those prayers helped.