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It all happened so fast. One day he was dear old Dad, and the next day he was groaning, groaning so loud in the bathroom, you could hear him all over the house.

That night, he quietly asked me to set up a doctor’s appointment for him, a specialist, but to not tell anyone about it. He said the pain in his belly was really bad.

I made a couple of calls, called in a couple of favors, and I got him an appointment with one of the best gastrointestinal docs in the country.

They gave him a test, and they gave him more tests. The results came in quickly, too quickly. I got a call from the doctor at 7:05 that night. Strange how the time stays in your head.

He told me it was colon cancer. I felt like someone had punched me in the chest. He said they had to get him into surgery right away. That wasn’t a good sign.

At 5:48 on the night of the surgery, the doctor called again. His voice was low and formal, the voice he used for telling people something terrible. “We tried,” he said, “but the tumor was massive and the cancer had attacked his lymph nodes. I’m sorry, but we couldn’t get it all.”

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“We make him as comfortable as we can.”

“How long does he have?” What a horrible question to have to ask. “That’s always hard to tell. But I would say 6 months.”

And that was it. Just a week earlier, he was dear old Dad, laughing and joking and fooling around, and now he had an expiration date.

The family was devastated. My mother, who was wracked with Parkinson’s, had depended on my father, her rock, to get her out of bed every morning. And now he was in bed.

My sister cried her eyes out. The grandkids just moped. They didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know what to say. On visits to the hospital, they would sit in silence. What was there to talk about?

But I didn’t want my father going out like that. I had an idea. We owned a very early home video camera. I would make a tape of everyone telling him their favorite memories. It would be upbeat, it would put a smile on his face.

I started writing notes for my part. I always wrote notes.

“Dad, you taught me everything I know. How to hit a baseball. How to throw a football. How to ride a bike, and how to drive a car.

But, most of all, you taught me about life. You taught me that no one was more important than me. You taught me to respect people, but never to sell myself short. You taught me to ask for what I want, but never settle for what I got.

You taught me about design and marketing. And, most of all, you taught me about people. You showed love for me and the girl that I married and the kids that we had.

And you bought me a brand new Mustang.”

He always told me to end with a laugh.

I started to get ready to shoot this tribute. We would show it to him on Father’s Day.

The next morning was so gray, you couldn’t see the sun. I went to the hospital to visit him. We spent a couple of hours together, and then I drove back to see my mother. When I got in the house, the phone was ringing.

It was one of his nurses. Her voice was cold and distant. “I’m very sorry to tell you that your father has passed away,” she said.

And that was it. He was gone. The 6 months had turned to 2. It all went by so fast. I cried that he died and left us so quickly. It was the first of June. He never made it to Father’s Day.

June 2021
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