Had a great night but maudlin now that I’m home — I guess that’s the cancer life, in a way. It’s hard for us to have fun without immediately contrasting it with the pain of this existence at times. The pinnacles just drive home how fucking deep the depths go.
When I first got diagnosed I had a grand plan to write a book for my daughter, to make a mark somehow just for her. Life, or this slow progression towards death with all the chemo and hospital stops in between, just got in the way. Perhaps this serves the same purpose, compiled someday … there are instructions to that effect so she at least has some record of how much I thought about her.
Anyhow I was going through some files on the PC tonight and found the intro I wrote for that book a few years ago. It follows, the title of this entry my working title. Maybe I just feel like I need something personal to her here right now; I feel precarious for some reason, fragile. My KitKat stash has also run out which is not helping.
What is this book?
That’s a good question, actually. I suppose the best title would be a self-epitaph, if there is such a thing. A how-to manual for being average? A road map to the middle? Wishful thinking? A giant conceit by an otherwise un-noteworthy person?
That’s the problem, isn’t it. If I were some famous actor I’d be here pontificating on how wonderful I am or whatever people like that write about. If I was one of those annoying cancer survivors who has to blather on about how cancer was almost a good thing in their life for the changes it fomented, that’d make sense for a book (although it’d still be annoying – seriously, fuck those people and their cheery bullshit). If I had some ironic experience, like the neurologist who discovers they have brain cancer, I could perhaps explain something.
But the question I kept asking myself most of my life, and the reason for things like why I never wrote a book even though I always wanted to (fiction), was “who the fuck am I to write anything?”
The answer, as I’ve learned, is “nobody.” Well almost nobody – because there’s a context that becomes important here, one regarding the audience. You might think it’s you – I mean that’s just semantics, right? You’re reading it, so it is you. And to you, random person, I’m nobody. I don’t think there’s a life lesson here, or a how-to – just a prurient sort of entertainment at best. But I didn’t write it for you.
See I wrote this only for my daughter. In fact, this started as a series of letters I began writing her when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (I think it’s supposed to be capitalized – feels like if something murders you it deserves caps, right?), but I found that not only was that a really odd format but even worse I’d write her a letter, seal it and put it in a safe deposit box, and then promptly forget what I had written. So I pondered maybe just putting them all together or something because as the disease, and moreso the treatment, stole my memory (“chemobrain” as they call it) I started wondering if my daughter would end up reading these and think her dead father was some idiot with Alzheimer’s.
Not really the impact I was going for.
Additionally, I was not religious about writing those letters – similar to therapy, which I ended after the first few years of my disease, when I write my soul opens and it all comes out. Unfortunately, those letters became tantamount to opening Pandora’s Box, and since I had to be functional as both a father and sole provider I just couldn’t do it. I realized pretty early on that, in and of itself, I didn’t care that I had a terminal disease. Really, what else was I going to do in life? Play in the NHL? I’m 45 and don’t skate. But I had a daughter, and that not only changed everything but it was my one Achilles’ heel with this – I cannot, to this day, think about leaving my daughter behind at a young age without it just wrecking me emotionally.
See this is the life I’m afraid I’m never going to be able to relate. It’s the conversations I would have given anything to have with her but this disease stole from us. It’s the little things I would have hoped she would have learned about me, come to understand, and maybe even loved a little. The jokes we might have shared, the music I would have tried to get her to become a fan of, the games we never got to play. It’s as much of me as I can figure out.
Maybe you (that’s the “not my daughter” you) get something from it too. I have my doubts, honestly – not to play the humility card too much but one of the things I’ve learned about myself is not only am I nothing really special, per se, I think I made some critical errors somewhere in my life and went down too many wrong paths. I think I might have been able to be someone special, at least in the way we all think of things. A CEO, I think, or the right-hand man of one – the more I’ve learned about myself over the years the more I think I would have excelled elsewhere had I chosen differently. But I’m not entirely sure, given the choices I’ve made, that I would have done so, so perhaps I’m just fooling myself? Either way I can’t really point to specific events or decisions and say “see, avoid this and you’ll be richer than Oprah!” or something really useful in a book.
Not only don’t I have any answers, but if you’re reading this I’m also dead, so it may be the worst self-help book ever, come to think of it.
But there’s one person out there I need to read this. I’d say I hope it’s enough but it’d be pretty fucking stupid to wonder if a poorly written and badly flowing book is a substitute for a dad being there. I’m not even sure what the point of writing this is – I keep coming back to wondering whether somehow this is an ego trip or something, some last-ditched attempt to be something for my now fatherless daughter to be able to point at and say things like “my dad, the writer.”
You know what, though? I don’t care either. You decide. For me, all I can say is it’s a love letter to a relationship cancer stole from me, and that’s about as honest as I can be about it. It’s some small attempt to steal back what this disease has taken from two people, and I know it’ll never be enough. It’s a longer, and more thought-out, goodbye than I’m sure I got to say to her.
And it’s all I have.
I love you, Ari.