In 2016 my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. He wrote a book documenting his fight against this dreadful disease as well as including anecdotes from his extraordinaire life. The following is the foreword I wrote for the book.
It is a warm morning in September and my Dad is sat on the bed as he listens to a speech that I need to practice. “It’s good, but could I make a few suggestions?” He takes my place near the door with the piece of paper in his hand and he recites the lines. It is as though he is channelling Winston Churchill’s spirit as he articulates the words with authority. Wearily, he retakes his seat on the bed, he doesn’t have the same energy as he used to. I jot down some notes, inspired by his delivery. Even after thirty years, he still surprises me.
It had been a year since my Dad lay in the same bed but in drastically different circumstances. I remember where I was when I received the phone call, as many do when they get traumatic news. It was a Friday evening and I had got back to my apartment from work when the phone rang. It was my Dad. We spoke for a bit about my day and my plans for the weekend yet there was something off. The tone of his voice was strained. Then he lay the bombshell on me. Cancer.
What he said after that I couldn’t remember. Details of the illness, what the doctor had told him and plans for the future. It didn’t sink in. Nothing sunk in. My mind was a blank. A few minutes later he said he had to call my brother Rory to give him the news as well. A task that couldn’t have been easy. I told him I would speak to him later. The phone went silent. They say your whole life can change in an instant. I finally realised what that meant.
My Dad now lies in the bed, lively with conversation. A year earlier he was bed ridden with awful back pains, where the cancer had spread. The two scenes could not be more different. He spent a month in my apartment while my Mom ran errands and organised a new life where he could be comfortable and closer to the hospital. Where once he had been my rock and always looked out for me, I was the now the one who had to take care him before the treatment started. The roles had been reversed.
As a young boy, my Dad was a superhero, indestructible. A mountain among mortal men who would protect and provide for his family. When I got older, I would always go to my Mom when I needed to buy some sports equipment or needed help with a problem. However, for serious trouble, my Dad would be the one I would turn to. When I fell asleep on the sofa, he would be the one to carry me up the stairs. For that month, my Dad would sleep in my bed instead. I would check he was comfortable before I caught up on the latest boxset from my new sleeping spot, the floor of the living room.
To care for a parent is a humbling experience. Waking up in the middle of the night. Tracking the mountain of pills. Cooking. Cleaning. Staying with him until the agony subsided. He would spend most of the day in bed or on his favourite spot on the sofa, unable to move because the discomfort would gnaw at him. Despite being a witness to the terrible pain that he endured or those sleepless nights, I’d be forever grateful that I could return the favour for all the opportunities he provided for me and Rory.
If you were to ask any of his family or friends, they would all say the same when describing my Dad. The life of the party. He would never pass on an opportunity to do an impression or tell an anecdote (one I’d probably heard a hundred times before) that would have everyone roaring with laughter. The way he could communicate with others was a special gift that very few people possess. He touched many lives, and those lives were richer for it. There was one particularly bad night when he stayed at mine. We were halfway through watching ‘12 Angry Men’ before he said he had to retire to bed, the pain was too intense. I sat by his side until the painkillers kicked in. I spoke to him, to keep his mind off the stabbing aches and only a few minutes later we were laughing until we cried. There will be many moments such as this throughout the book. There could not be a more fitting title than ‘Laughter Through Tears’.
The month we lived together through those testing times brought us even closer together. I learnt a lot about him, not just as a father, but as a person. A risk taker and a dreamer. A person that only comes by once in a generation. I hope this book gives an insight into that individual and you enjoy the stories he chooses to share with the world.
From his spot on the bed he asks me if I’m hungry. I finish my notes on the speech and we head to the kitchen for some food. “Do you want butter in your sandwiches?” he asks. “No Dad, I don’t like butter,” I remind him for the thousandth time.
“Okay, no problem. I will make us some sandwiches that will still be unbelievable.”
I’ve had to remind him for many, many years that I don’t like butter and I hope there are many, many years ahead that I can remind him again.
If you would like to continue reading Laughter Through Tears, it can be found on Amazon: