I just spent about an hour writing about my dad. I typed about how good life was for my family during my childhood. I wrote how proud Dad was as my brother and I both graduated college and started our own lives. I conveyed how life got tougher as my mom got sick and died and then five years later, my brother also passed away. And then I stopped…read what I wrote…and I couldn’t write more. I was writing as if my dad was no longer here. But he’s alive and well in Florida, living the retired life with my step-mom and with good friends close by. I just visited him last week and I know he’s doing well.
The point of sharing this here in this blog is, frankly, to wish him a Happy 79th Birthday today (March 12). (Yep, I forgot to send him a card). The second is to introduce my dad as someone who’s been touched deeply by melanoma.
My dad is an amazing guy. He’s done so many cool things that have inspired me. Little things like taking care of the local park grounds when no one else would, despite never being asked to do so. Like driving around the neighborhood replacing remove heavy manhole covers that prankster teenagers removed the night before. Like shoveling snow off of a neighbor’s driveway because he was the first out there doing so. Like working on his ink drawings as hard as he worked on his drafting projects because drawing helped him cope and relax. Very little things that Dad did made huge impressions on both me and my brother. And he continues to be as impressive.
When Jeff was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic melanoma, Dad traveled the 3 hours between his home in West Virginia and Jeff’s home in Ohio many times. During Jeff’s last weeks, Dad stayed there constantly. He knew what was going on with Jeff. Dad had seen what cancer can do when he watched my mom fight lung cancer during her last year. It was not an easy time for Dad…and the scars will last for the rest of his life. His scars from melanoma are not from a surgical knife, but they run just as deeply.
Dad’s doing well. He misses my mom. He misses Jeff. I saw him tear up during a touching feel-good commercial while watching TV. I do the same thing as such ads bring up deep emotions mores than they used to. But I know he’s as happy as he can possibly be now (even with the “Estep Temper” we both share). And that makes me happy. I have the deepest appreciation and gratitude for the dad I have…and I hope to one day, even as I’m 50 years old now, to grow up to be just like him.
Happy Birthday Dad!
I wrote a little more about my dad back in 2006 when he wrote a memoir of his youth called, “Growing up in a Nitro.” You can check out the blog here...you'll have to scroll down past the post titled "Happy Alloween"...which turns out to be a pretty neat tribute to my brother as well, so you might as well read it, too!