I remember the last time my father held me on his hip. I was 8 or 9 years old, too old to be held on his hip, and old enough to remember that I was too old. It was after a performance I was in with a children's singing/dancing group. There was some kind of reception after the performance (old enough to remember I was too old, too young to remember what we were doing, exactly). I was tired, and whining, and I wanted to go home. I pressed myself against my dad, whimpering a little--I might have even wrapped my arms around his legs.
You have to know that my father is very tall, and all of his height is in his legs.
He was patting me on the head, trying to get me to calm down, and then he reached down and hooked his arms under my armpits. My mom asked, "What are you doing?" He said, "Heather is tired. I'm picking her up."
And so he picked me up and perched me on his hip.
It was awesome and embarrassing, all at the same time.
Again, my father is tall, so perched on his hip made me the tallest person in the room, easily. It meant I got a completely different view of the room, and I was suddenly no longer tired. Instead of adult legs flashing by, I could look down on their heads. I could see completely across the entire room. I was giggling, flushed with excitement of being so high up, and also hoping that none of my friends would see that my dad was holding me.
Indeed, one of my friends did see, and I have a distinct memory of her looking up at me and shaking her finger, saying, "Heather, YOU ARE TOO BIG to be up there!"
I think I stuck my tongue out at her.
But as she said it, I knew it was true. I reluctantly slid down, and satisfied my childish need for closeness to my parent by holding my dad's hand instead.
Even as a kid, it kind of made me sad to know that time was moving forward, and time inevitably shifts a child's relationship with a parent.
My father, now 81, has been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Like most of these types of things, it came as a shock, and my family has been thrown into a new world, my parents especially. Talking to my siblings, we are all in varying stages of grief, which is to be expected. But part of me realizes that even though 81 is a little younger than we all expected, and pancreatic cancer moves faster than we'd like, the truth is that the time when we would have to live without our parents was coming closer, because people don't live forever. Time kind of stinks that way.
We've been lucky in that both of my parents have always been in excellent health, with no major health issues. Nope, not even PKD has slowed anybody down. We know that my father carries the gene, which I inherited, but his cysts are small, he has low blood pressure, his kidneys are of regular size. When he asked my nephrologist if he should be taking measures to slow the progression of his disease, the neph told him he'd be dead before PKD could kill him. At the time, 8 years ago, it was funny. The joke now falls a little flat.
And now time seems to be the question of the day. How much time will we have before he dies? Will the treatment/chemo buy us more time? Did we catch the tumor in time? How much time before we know if the treatment is working? I was talking to my sister about summer plans, and she said, "Does Dad have that long?"
Time. It's a tricky, tricky thing.
I was with my father when he got the biopsy, when it was starting to really look like he had cancer. I quipped, "Well, now YOU have a life threatening disease. Welcome to the club." He gave a rueful laugh, and said something like, "Nice club."
Yeah. What a club.