Shelby Warner. The Beginning of Living

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1 Shelby Warner The Beginning of Living I could see the tears streaming down his cheeks. The car radio gave off just enough light to be able to see the pain and sadness that overcame my father s face as we drove through the night. I wanted to comfort him, but what could a simple fourteen year old do? What could I say to help him deal with this anguish? I was just as scared as he was. I remember the night when I heard him waking up at two a.m. coughing up blood into the bathroom sink. That was when I became afraid. That was when I knew something had to be terribly wrong. My mother had finally convinced him to go to the doctor since she had become afraid too. I had gone with him because my mother wasn t too thrilled about the idea of my staying home alone while Dad was at his appointment with my mom and sister out of the house. Mom always worked the night shifts on Friday nights. My sister, Lily, happened to be staying the night at a friend s house. I was happy to go, just to give Dad some company, but I have never seen my dad cry, ever. I hated seeing him in this much pain. I hate to tell you this Rob, but your right lung is cancerous. Those words that slipped from of the doctor s mouth hung in the air like a thick fog in early morning. I knew from my health class that everyone had a very significant chance of getting some type of cancer, whether it was from genetics or the use of unhealthy products. I didn t realize how great that chance was until those words met my ears. My mother told me that Dad had a history of chain smoking through high school and college, but then quit when he met her. The doctor said that the effects of smoking were most likely the cause of the cancer. I never should have said yes to that first cigarette. Somehow I knew that it would lead to something like this, yet I still said yes Dad said while sobbing. I thought about this, thinking back to the odds of getting cancer. Was it possible he would have gotten it anyway even if he didn t have a history of smoking? I didn t know what to say to him. All the words and thoughts on my mind had no way of escaping. I m sorry, Grace. I just feel like I ll be the reason why our family will take a turn for the worse; that everything is going to be different from now on, he said. I didn t say anything; I just stared at my feet. His deep breaths and troubled sobs had stunned me frozen solid. I tried to think of a way to help.

2 As I turned my head to look at him, I reached over to put my hand on his free one, the hand that wasn t on the steering wheel. When I did this, he moved his hand before I could touch him to wipe away the tears. It wasn t until after we collided with a red pickup truck that he realized he had run a four-way stop sign. I must have blacked out for a bit, because I didn t remember the car tipping onto the passenger side where I was seated. The glass was demolished, and my head rested on the cold, hard asphalt. I felt chills run throughout my body, almost freezing my insides. I could then see flashing red lights through the half-shattered windshield that managed to stay in place unlike my window. I was so stiff and cold, it was impossible to turn and see my dad. I couldn t hear any movement coming from him. Dad? Dad, are you okay? I said shakily. What made this even more depressing was that these were the first words I had said since the doctor gave us the news. There was no answer from him, and I began to panic. I tried turning again, but the pain made me halt. I must have blacked out again because I woke up in a hospital bed. How long had I been out cold? I don t remember anything that had happened. The brightness from all the lights was to overbearing for my eyes to handle, so I squinted until my eyes adjusted. When they finally were used to the brightness, I could see my mother at my bedside and Lily in the corner of the room. Lily was a couple years younger than me, so I m sure it took a while for her to settle into the hospital atmosphere. I tried sitting up, but a sharp pain went through my back as if someone was taking a jagged knife to it. The extreme pain prevented me from moving any further than two inches off the pillows. I could feel the bandages wrapped around my waist and legs. There was also a small cast on my left foot. Mom said that I badly bruised my legs and back and the glass cut open a small part of my head and the right side of my back. I had broken my foot from kicking the dashboard when the car tipped. She said I also had a small concussion from hitting the window. So that s what shattered it. I knew this would definitely take me out of basketball for the rest of the season. This depressed me even more; I was the starting post for our freshmen team. This pain would be way too overbearing. It was too overbearing for me to even sit up! I used all the energy I could to ask where Dad was. He s in surgery. His chest was cut open when the car was tipped, so the doctors thought they could possibly remove his tumor. It is small enough to remove. He may have a chance, but it s slim. He s lost a lot of blood, said Mom with a heavy heart. I could only imagine how unbearable this must have been for her. She didn t even know Dad had cancer till she got the phone call from the local police. I thought about how slim his chances for living were, and I fought back tears in the making. I tried remembering the last few seconds of the car ride before we had impact with the other car. It was all a blur at first, but then it started coming back. I remembered Dad 2

3 moving his hand away from mine as I tried to comfort him. I remembered seeing the disappointment on his face. How long has he been in surgery? I asked. I glanced at my mother s face. She had absolutely no emotion or expression on her face. I had seen this face only one other time, and it was a few years back. I remember watching a show on T.V. about how much cancer affects a person s life. Mom was flipping through channels when she came upon the show. I was five at the time. Why is cancer so hard Mommy? I asked her. Now she had the same facial expression as she had then. No emotion. She just said with the simplest tone that it could ruin a person or a family so easily. I didn t think about what she said much, until now. He s been in there for almost three hours. They said it d take a while for them to get it all completely out, she told me. It wasn t until now that it hit me; Dad might not make it out alive. My eyes became blurry as tears filled my eyes. My mother took my hand, and I didn t move it away has my father had done before. I needed all the comfort I could get. If the accident didn t kill Dad, the cancer, or the surgery would. However long it would take, if the doctors couldn t get the tumor out, it would eventually spread from his lungs to his heart. If any treatment weren t effective, he would eventually die. The surgery could be too much for his body to handle. He had already lost a lot of blood. What more could he handle? Why did life seem so difficult? Why does it blow the candle out so early on so many innocent lives? It didn t seem fair. I must ve fallen asleep because the sun shone into the room. The bright, fresh light showed how bare and lifeless my room was. The typical hospital room, has no colors or anything. I could see Lily sleeping on a chair in front of the small television that hung from the top of the ceiling. I dreamt of my dad, of how happy he had been. I dreamt of me and him playing outside during the summer. These were the most precious memories. We played catch with my softball, played HORSE with the basketball hoop in the driveway, and played one-on-one kickball in the back yard. Thinking about the dream and the memories of me and him made me smile for the first time in more than twenty-four hours. The past twentyfour had been the most miserable of my life. I looked around the room for my mother, but she was nowhere in sight. I decided she was either in the cafeteria or talking to a doctor about Dad. I wondered if I was the reason we had gotten into the accident in the first place. He moved his hand because he didn t want my comfort. His hand covered his face, so he couldn t see the road for those significant few seconds. Was I at fault? Was I the reason Dad may or may not make it? I began to feel dizzy and nauseated, and the unpleasant yellow walls and the bareness of the room didn t help. I had to close my eyes to regain my sense of mind. I kept them sealed shut and tried to picture how my dad looked. All the pain inside was 3

4 made known to me when my imagination created the terrible looking picture of Dad. I ached and moaned from the hurt; I had to see my dad anyway. I tried sitting up, fighting the pain trying to keep my back straight. The stand holding my IV pack had wheels, so it was mobile. The tube that traveled from the pack to my arm was about three or four feet long, so there was a possibility that I could walk. I ripped the plain white sheets off my legs and slowly turned my body until my feet dangled off the side of the bed. I began to thank God for allowing me to move, but it was after I moved that I asked Him to take me to my dad. Could I get there on my own? Grace, what are you doing? Lily asked from her chair. Her voice broke the silence of the room. You need to rest. Mom said you aren t allowed to leave your bed! she said, almost yelling. I don t care. I have to see Dad, I managed to say. Even responding seemed almost impossible, as if my lungs were saying no to give me any breath to speak. I m going to tell Mom! she yelled. She had always been a tattle-tale. She bolted out of the room and twenty seconds later Mom appeared at the doorway, holding Lily s hand. I want to see Dad. Please, let me see him, Mom! I exclaimed. Amazingly those words sounded almost normal, hiding all the pain. She didn t say a thing; instead she left Lily at the doorway to retrieve some nurses to help me stand up. Mom s and Lily s green eyes kept on me while the nurses helped me. By the time I started walking, Mom and Lily had already made it out the door. Dad was only a couple rooms down. I felt relieved that he had survived! Lily s and Mom s dark brown hair was able to pick out in the hall, making it very easy to pick out where they were. They were just ahead of me, and walked into a door on the left. The one foot that didn t have the cast was chilled as the bareness of my skin met the cold, green tile. The two nurses helped me to a chair that my mom put beside Dad s bed. He was awake, but it looked as if he could fall into a deep sleep at any time. He was pale and thinner than he was the other night. I sat down beside him. Hey kiddo. His voice was so shaky and weak, it scared me. Hey Dad. I am so sorry, I told him. I couldn t think of anything else to say. None of this is your fault, Grace. None of it is! If anything you helped me get through it all. The entire time after the crash I only thought and dreamt of you and how your spirit would keep me alive, he said. I feel like I was the reason why you took your eyes off the road. You moved your hand away. You could have seen the road if I hadn t tried to I said as tears once again filled my eyes. No, you didn t. I was upset and shouldn t have been driving in the first place. Please don t cry, Grace. Everything is okay now. He smiled at me like he did when he was happy, 4

5 as if he d just smoked me in a round of HORSE. The doctors managed to take the entire tumor off of my lung. I lost some shoulder muscle, but other than that it s as if I didn t have cancer in the first place. The tears streamed down, but this time they were tears of pure joy. I couldn t believe that he was going to be okay, that we were all going to be okay. All I thought about was your safety. I m so sorry I brought this on you, and I don t know how I will ever make it up to you. You don t need to apologize, Dad. The important thing is that we are all right. We survived. Everything is going to get better, not worse, I said with a smile. This time Dad took my hand, and I didn t move it an inch. Everything was going to be okay. Mom smiled along with me as Lilly stood on the other side of Dad s bed smiling. An accident, cancer, or any other disaster would never tear our family apart. I was able to return home in just a couple days, but Dad had to stay another week to recover. I remember so clearly the day we all finally came home as a family again. When Dad took his first step into the house, I thought to myself that life didn t know how hard it d be to blow the candle out on my dad. Life s tremendous blows didn t know how bright his fire was. We both kept our flames burning. I knew that in my heart that Dad would always stay strong for me, and I would do the same for him. We weren t done living, because after what we had gone through we never felt more alive. Living hasn t come close to ending; in fact, even after our candles are blown out, it has only just begun. 5

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