HEALTH UPDATE: Living the dream! I have pains and things here and there. Paranoia is kicking in but overall I’m really good. I’m active. I’m living. I rest when I’m tired. This week I will have immunotherapy treatment #6 on Wednesday.
My Dad. Carl Edward Heussner. He was tall and thin. His nickname as a young man was Barley. He had a very serious voice. I’d be lying if I said he didn’t scare the crap out of me when I was little when he was angry. I didn’t understand why he would be angry. Now I do. He had 5 kids by the time he was 32! Why?? And thank you! Dad and Mom built us a playhouse. It was a real house, made of wood. It had a ladder that went to the top floor that was open to the sky. My Mom painted hippy flowers all over the exterior of our playhouse. It was really cool.
Dad was a hard worker. He rarely sat still. He provided for all seven of us. The house where we lived when I was born was out in the country on a few acres. Dad had a huge garden. He would have us kids plant, weed and harvest the garden with him. Mom would can the vegetables. I remember going to the garden and plucking tomatoes and cucumbers out of the dirt, wiping them off a bit before gobbling them down. I remember family bike rides out in the country. We didn’t have helmets back then. We went camping a lot. Dad could make just about anything. He made a “camping kitchen”. It was a big wooden box. One side had hinges and came down for a table. Inside, there were cubicles for all our kitchen stuff. Plates, stove, pans, lantern, utensils, salt n pepper, table cloth. Each item had a place in the camping kitchen. It was built to perfection. We would load up into the family van and away we would go. Loved that van. NOT. I named her big Bertha. She was a two tone brown Chevy van, three on the tree. I was expected to learn how to drive Bertha but refused. I would ride my bike in the rain before being seen in Big Bertha. I was a snot. A real brat. I had expectations of a cool ride. I gave my Dad a hard time. He provided for me but it wasn’t good enough. I look back feeling embarrassed and ashamed. It wasn’t just Bertha. It was a lot of things. His authority was a big one. I just wouldn’t have it.
We certainly had our issues throughout my teen years. He pushed me. I pushed him. I was just as stubborn as he was. One fight was particularly bad and ended with harsh words from my Dad that I’m sure I deserved. “When I die, it will be your fault”. My interior melted but I could never let him see my exterior crack. I understood as our relationship became close during my adult years that I was just as much to blame. I wanted so many times to bring it up and say how sorry I was…but I let it rest. He wouldn’t even know what I was talking about. We were on very good terms. I loved to be with him and my mom. Even though he never was one to say “I love you”, I knew that he did. Not with words but with his actions.
Then it happened. Cancer happened. My Dad had cancer! I was shocked, sad and so scared! He was our family’s sense of reason. He took care of my Mom! He took care of us! How could this happen? I had never been as close to someone with cancer. What does it mean? Will he die? The worry was painful. Something kicked in. I needed to be there. I was. I sat in on many appointments. I tried to help as much as I could. I realized cancer doesn’t always mean you will die. Dad did well with treatment for his bladder cancer. There was a new normal and he adjusted well, on the outside anyways.
Then it happened again. Dad has cancer again? A different kind? Multiple myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. What kind of sick joke is this? Here we go again. Well Dad is tough as nails so lets do this. But this time was different. This cancer was a beast. We had many serious talks, Dad and I. We often looked at each other after the appointments that brought bad news and would shrug our shoulders in agreement. What happens will happen. He will continue to fight, that’s all he can do. I could tell though that his faith was wavering. He was not happy with God. I was the opposite. I felt that God was the only one that could save us no matter what the end result! It changed me. My faith that I had ignored over the years was renewed.
I’ve written before, not long ago, about the drive to the hospital. Just me and my Dad. He was in bad shape. After tests and scans it was determined it was his time. They estimated he would be gone in a week. What?! So soon?! I’m not ready! It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming. It was still devastating. We made arrangements to go to hospice in Johnson Creek.
I’m one of five children. I never had an overflow of one on one time with either of my parents. The day leading up to Dad’s transfer to hospice was different. I had time all to myself. Just me and Dad. I had arrived early that morning to his hospital room. It was just the evening before that he was told he wouldn’t survive much longer. I sat down. My eyes trashed from crying for hours on end prior to my arrival. We held hands. Like never saying “I love you”, we looked at each other in silence. I didn’t need to hear any words. Our shrugs played back in my mind. What happens happens. Let’s pray? I got a feisty “why!!??” in reply. Dad! Don’t give up on your faith that you’ve believed in! Especially when you need it the most! He grumbled. I respected his wish. Sister Melanie joined us. We laughed a lot as we reminisced. Dad was quiet. He rolled over, his back to us. Maybe this was too much. The next thing I know, he said something that I never imagined I would hear. “Cathy. It’s not your fault.”. I jumped up. “He remembered!!!!”
I had one more opportunity to be all alone with my Dad. The ambulance ride to hospice. I cried my eyes out. He passed away a week later but not before a final blessing from his priest. He waited for that prayer. I knew he wouldn’t give up on God.
Happy Father’s Day In heaven Dad! Thank you for the tough love and life lessons. I love the life you gave me and many of my strongest traits are ones you instilled in me. I wish I realized how special you were when I was younger. I’m sorry I was a shit!