This Tuesday, 4 December 2007, my dad came home from the hospital. As of a late last week, he was able to get out bed and sit in a chair to watch TV, a near-miracle compared to previous weeks. I haven't been to see him yet, but he sounds good on the phone. It was nice to hear him talk about simply wanting to take a bath and go to bed. He has no more IV's and can wear his own clothes (technically, he never quit that--the man never once wore a hospital gown and insisted to be allowed to wear his own pajamas the entire hospital stay). I hope, maybe 99% in vain, that his home life now is spent so simply, taking in small pleasures. He will find out the status of his tumors in the coming days or weeks, and hopefully keep himself as healthy as he can. I sincerely fear, and disgustedly expect, to find him sitting in his chair when we visit, the smell of smoke still lingering and a red and white can in his hand.
Maybe I'm not giving the man the benefit of the doubt, or I'm underestimating any new appreciation of life he may have gained, or maybe I'm just being a selfish jerk, but a huge (HUGE) part of this whole ordeal for me has been the fact that, during my dad's hospital stay, he did not have any opportunity (Thanksgiving aside) to engage in his usual addictive behavior, i.e., smoking and drinking.
I do not think he has been clean this long my entire life. I believe it was probably scary: he probably had no idea who he was unaffected by his vices. I know I didn't. During my visits and conversations with him, however, I liked that person very much. He spoke of hope and sometimes faith. He talked evenly, even if it was sternly, without that unpredictable time-bomb of rage due to blow at any moment due to a disagreeable word or opinion. He shared himself with me in ways I cannot ever remember him doing, and finally accepted me as-is when I shared myself. I've always known my dad is a good man with a giving heart and soul and a sharp, critical mind, but I've only seen shadows of it beneath the surface of that smoky amber pool he lives in. During the last 11 weeks, I've met and gotten to know the man I always wanted to be my father. I am so desperately, vehemently afraid of who I will meet when I cross my parents' doorstep, that the man I grew up with will have once again taken over the man I met so recently. But I suppose all these things are lessons in acceptance, and I, of all people, cannot hold anyone's Evil Twin against him.
What the future holds for my family is beyond my understanding, something I am thankful not to have to carry the burden of. I will keep hoping, praying, and learning both about myself and my dad, whomever he may be, and loving him no matter what. I am not finished with any of the feelings, reactions, confusion, and sometimes turmoil I've experienced the last few months, but I do hope they make me a stronger, wiser, better person, and that I can make the most of each moment as a result.