Almost exactly 13 months ago I sat in a hospital bed and I wrote two letters. One to Finn and one to Liam. Those letters were the real start to my posting on CaringBridge and eventually here. At the time I wrote the letters I thought for sure they would need them to remember me by. Some little insignificant gesture to them to show them how much they meant to me and how they have changed my world. Since then I have written stories about my childhood, stories about my follies, stories about my triumphs, stories about my character, stories about my cancer. I hope that someday I can read them with the boys instead of them just reading them in my memory. Today I want to write them another letter.
Liam and Finn,
Today was a Monday. You were both supposed to go to school. Your mom encouraged me to bust you out of school, play hooky and take you skiing at Alyeska. It was a classic spring day. Warm enough that it barely froze last night. The sky is a spring blue with a few wispy clouds and the sun is taking its sweet time crossing the sky. There are all sorts of things we could do today. We have had many of these days this spring and it is by far one of the best I can remember in Alaska. We have however not been downhill skiing much as our last adventure at Alyeska left you, Liam, with six stables but a story I hope by now you are actually pretty capable of making sound entertaining. You were hit by a snowboarder and since then we have been a bit anxious about going. Today I couldn’t pass it up.
Finn, you have wanted to go skiing almost everyday off since then and we have denied you because of our fear. Today, you were the reason I really decided to go. Your enthusiasm at the age of three to ski is enthralling. I am very glad Liam joined us though as it wouldn’t have been as fun without him. He didn’t want to go, not because of the recent accident, but the fact he might ruin his perfect school attendance. So we waited so he could go to school for an hour and then jumped him free.
The day was amazing. The two of you were smiley the entire time. You got along with each other and even the bright sunlight on the snow was not as radiant as the two of you together. You chased each other around the mountain with wild abandon. You hit jumps, you ran into each other for fun, you tried areas you hadn’t before. You made my cheeks sore from smiling at you and laughing with you. No one complained the entire day. You were the best of little buddies and you made me so happy to be your dad. The fact that we were skiing, which is something I have always loved, made my joy even greater.
I will admit though that today was also very hard for me. When I see you two like this I can only wonder what your future holds and hope with all my heart that I can watch you to grow up together. This morning I got my labs drawn and my liver functions keep getting worse. I contemplated checking the results before I left and when I did, hoping that I would have one more reason to be happy, I immediately regretted it. I feel good, I think I look good but the numbers aren’t so good. The biggest problem is that I don’t really know what is going on. This lack of knowing just brings me to the worst thought which is that I won’t get to see you two when you are older. I sure hope I am wrong but wonderful days like this make me feel so torn. Lucky to be spending this time with you. Angry and unlucky that I might not get to do it for years and years. Multiple times today as I enjoyed your craziness I had to fight back tears because I just want, the illusion at least, to think I will be there when you are older and that we have many more days like this ahead.
After you skied yourselves tired we drove home. Liam listened to NPR, Finn passed out on the ride. At home we chopped some ice in the late afternoon warmth and did some puddle riding on your bikes. We made dinner together and struggled through a little homework. After a bath you both stood on the edge of the bathtub to see what it would be like to be taller. Liam, you were as tall as me. Looking you in the eye and telling you some day you would be this big was beautiful and heart wrenching. I love you so much as little boys and parents often say they don’t want their kids to grow up… but I really want to be there for it. To see you two as grown men and hopefully enjoying each other as much as you did today is a glowing thought. Whatever happens please remember to enjoy each othe every now and then.
I hate cancer. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fun. But the two of you have made my journey more tolerable for sure. You have given me a reason to keep on finding a way to get past the problems, to cope when it would be easier to cave, to enjoy the time I have rather than worry it away, and to ski instead of sulk. Thank you both for today. I love you more than you will ever know.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.