My teenage years are broken up into two distinct parts: before cancer and after cancer. Every memory I have automatically falls into a category in relation to my dad’s diagnosis. I got my driver’s license before cancer, and I graduated high school after cancer. I applied to college before cancer, and I got accepted after cancer. I wish my mind didn’t work this way, but cancer has a way of changing everything.
I lost my dad when I was a 17-year-old senior in high school. The director of the Indiana University Cancer Center succumbed to melanoma, a morbid bit of irony that makes people’s eyes widen. No, no one’s immune to cancer, not even a man who spent his professional life curing it.
Today would’ve been my dad’s birthday. I think about him every day, but especially on August 9th and February 15th, the anniversary of his death. As most of you know, he died from cancer in 2009 when I was a senior in high school.
I always hear that he’s “watching over me.” I respect and admire people who believe that so unwaveringly, and it makes me feel so good when people say he’s still with me. If I’m being completely honest with myself, though, I’m just not sure that I believe it. First, because I’m not sure what I think when it comes to life after death. I’ve tried to convince myself that he knows the current me, and I just can’t. And second, if there is life after death, I hope he’s doing something much cooler than watching my boring life. In my ideal situation, my dad gets a highlight reel every once in awhile. You know, just cut to the good stuff.
So Dad, on your birthday, these are the things I want to tell you.