What is the most painful memory you have of him?

The most painful memory I have of my father was when he was dying of cancer. I was stationed at Dam Neck naval base in Virginia Beach (at (NMITC)-Naval and Marine Corp Intelligence Training Command) when I received a call from him notifying me that he had terminal pancreatic cancer. Prior to his call, I had no idea he had been sick. He had re-married a younger woman (my age), and her primary concern at the time was attaining his estate. She had no interest in talking to him, going to doctor appointments, or supporting him in any way. Her main goal was to get him to sign a revised last will and testament.

I was the only family member who had on-going communication with him because he had driven virtually everyone else away; he was a high functioning alcoholic. He had retired from his NYC transit job, and I established communication with him because I sincerely wanted to know why he was so unhappy. We talked on the phone, or whenever I came to visit while on leave, but I never found out why he had such a hard time connecting with others.

He sold the house on Long Island, and used the money to purchase several acres of land just outside of Richmond and began the construction of his dream home. He had ignored symptoms of fatigue and malaise, and spent most of his time building his home. He finally went to the doctor when he could no longer manage his pain; by that time his prognosis was grave. I immediately took leave from my job, and went to visit him in Richmond. He had not told anyone else in our family about his illness, so I notified all my siblings. His new wife refused to go to any of his doctor visits, so I accompanied him to his “second opinion” appointment. The doctor confirmed the initial diagnosis, and referred him to Retreat Hospital in Richmond for care. I went with him to check in and get settled. He had no visitors, so I drove (2 hours) to Richmond every day to check on him. He would always talk about the changes he planned to make in his life “once this thing was over and he was feeling better.” I felt sorry for him during those times.

One afternoon, he went into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. The expression on his face was utter shock; he ran his fingers over his face as if he didn’t recognize himself, but said nothing.

The next day, his doctor came to talk to him about surgery to try to remove the tumor. I am not aware of all the details, but they operated on him. After the surgery, my father told me that the doctor said that there was nothing they could do, the cancer was too advanced.

He was sent home to rest comfortably after that. I learned that his wife had called the paramedics to their home 2 times to have him resuscitated because she wanted him to sign his will. He refused to sign. She had him sent back to Retreat hospital because she said she couldn’t take care of him at home. He deteriorated very quickly after that. He passed away 1 week later at the age of 60.

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5 thoughts on “What is the most painful memory you have of him?

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