Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eye See You (Blink If You Can Hear Me)

This is the story of my dad's journey with colon cancer.

This journey is far from over, but right now my dad is at a resting place - an oasis of the mind where I currently cannot fully reach him. My dad has always been the most avid reader of my blog. Writing is the one way I can try to reach out to him. Dad, one day you will read this and you will not believe the journey you have traveled with your mind, body, and spirit.

June 11th. I was sitting on my couch eating raw honey out of a jar while watching Larry King Live. Suddenly my apartment door unlocked and I rolled my eyes as I watched my mom sneak in, breaking our, "Call first before arriving in case I have a boy over" Rule.

My mom ran in, "Ooo, I have to go to the bathroom so bad!" She went to my bathroom to pee. Then she walked directly over to my couch, sat down, and I diligently placed my sticky honey spoon down on the table to give her my full attention.

"Dad had his colonoscopy today. They found something."


"... And it is cancerous."

"What, Mom? What?"

The following six weeks were a blur. We are a private family ("we" meaning all members with the exception of yours truly - private people are not public bloggers). So, honoring our Norwegian, stoic, private spirit, we did not tell many people that my dad had colon cancer and would require surgery.

We also struggled with the whole "cancer" nomenclature. "Let's call it a growth – It's only one small part of the colon and the rest looks great, so, it's just that little affected area, right?" Right.

If there is one thing I can be proud of, it's all the special time I spent with my dad before we got into the real thick of this ordeal. We would go for drives (See: Cozy Houses At Night), have fires with s'mores (See: S'mores Club), and we would just talk and talk until it was 1:00 AM and he would say, "Ok, Runsk, you might want to start thinking about thinking about getting home so you can rest before work tomorrow." That is a joke we've always had – my dad is so gentle that he always does a double suggestion like that. For example, when my mom put him in charge of waking us up in the morning, he would softly call up the stairs to me and my brother: "Guys, you may want to start thinking about thinking about getting up?" Ah, my Daddy. So sensitive that he has to give the double suggestion. No direct commands come from Daddy.

Two surgeries later, three new stuffed animals, TEN pairs of new shoes, two new pairs of jeans, a new dress, a new jacket, a new purse, endless art projects, junk food, restless sleeps, and crying fits... My Daddy is very sick, semi-conscious and all tubed up in the ICU. I find myself asking how did we get to this place? Surgeons, Neurologists, Critical Care Doctors, Nurses...

It's just a blur of people walking in and out from behind the curtain, each having to be told that my dad is "Chuck" and NOT "Mr. Andersen."

Daddy can blink when we tell him to. Yesterday we said, "Blink TWICE" and he did. We all cheered. Sometimes I go into his room in ICU and I just vent. I tell him how I don't get along with my mom and brother the way that I get along with him. I tell him how I need him because he is the only guy who really gets me and how we haven't figured out life yet. I tell him that I am not ready to lose him yet. I tell him that he is my fellow explorer in life – that he is Lewis and I am Clark and we need to cross into the great Wild West together.

No matter the outcome, life will never be the same. I will never spend another Sunday night pouting with my mom and dad (pouting cause I have no hot boyfriend to make me dinner) and being indecisive about which movie to go see with them.

I will never roll my eyes at my dad's sensitive pensiveness, the fact that he named his brain Herman (I actually love that), or that he and my mom sometimes bicker. Life is ever so delicate. I watch Daddy's chest move up and down with the help of his breathing tube, and I think about playing catch with him in the backyard. I hold his swollen feet and I think about how they get grass stains when he mows the lawn bare foot. I hold his puffy hands and I remember how he taught me guitar when I was little. I remember how he encourages me to take deeper breaths so I can sing on key. I remember him laying on the floor next to the piano and lifting his hand up and down to teach me when to crescendo and decrescendo with my piano competition piece. I think about driving back from Gull Lake with my dad, eating ice cream cones so huge that we "got bored" with them. Dad rolled down the windows and suggested we toss them out on the highway – "A snack for the deers."

Dad always used to take video of our family vacations, and no matter how banal the content (South Dakota Corn Palace, Driving in the Badlands, Standing by a creek) he would come up with the BEST narration/commentary. I would laugh so hard and wonder how if he had it all scripted out or something...

Each and every human being is so exquisitely priceless and unique. And God takes some of us off the Earth onto our next journeys each and every day. But, God? Not my Daddy, OK? Not yet. That would not be fair as you have not even sent me my Prince Charming yet.

Dad – Just keep blinking. Try to squeeze my hand. I think I saw your furrow your brow when I threatened to run away the day the doctors thought you were brain dead. By the way - the MRI and EEG told us that your brain is amazingly young looking and active. So, see Dad? You need to go get that PhD in Psychology and we also gotta start a band. We gotta drive around, look at cozy houses, then have some s'mores and talk our good talks about the meaning of this silly life.

I love you, Daddy.

Come back to me.


  1. you are both in my thoughts every day...thanks for bringing his sweetness and courage to life through your blog

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with me,
    I feel like I am very close to you and we have never meet..
    I am glad my jewelry is bringing you happiness,
    be strong,
    XO ,