My relationship with him has been suspended in time
By S. Ensandoost
October 31, 2002
His seventieth year also marks the second time he's been diagnosed with cancer,
my father. It all seems very bizarre to me.
The first time he was diagnosed was three years ago. It didn't seem real at that
time either. Here's the man who has single-handedly managed all the affairs of our
family for over four decades. Who's loomed much larger than life in all our lives,
my mother's and my two siblings. He's been in charge, in control. Having the last
and first word in every situation he cared to insinuate himself into.
Now he is dying. We don't know when for certain yet. But it is quite mystifyingly
clear that he is on a downward trajectory.
Granted his advancing age alone should have given me an indication that he would
be playing a lesser not greater role in my life, but somehow that hadn't registered
up until recently. My relationship with him has been suspended in time. Frozen in
a twenty-some year vacuum it seems. Now there is a rush to recover lost ground. Making
up for lost opportunities for connection, for knowing deeply this person who has
been and will always be my father.
I go to bed with a vague sense of anxiety and wake up with an urgent sense of having
to accomplish much to capture the moments that are slipping away as I lay in bed
gaining fully conscious while snippets of last night's dreams flash in and out of
I feel a subtle surge of panic rising up from my belly to meet my dissolving, descending
heart in a pang of sadness, guilt and helplessness. I throw back the covers and swing
my legs out of bed toward the bathroom, suppressing the urge to grab the car keys
and drive the forty minutes to his house.
I try to distract myself a little with thoughts of things I need to accomplish on
this day. I buy some time to think how best to shape my time with him. I could spend
another day sitting by his side watching the news on television. The trick is to
spend time with my Father that is meaningful and profound. The fact that we've never
done so in my lifetime makes it challenging but something we both seem more inclined
to undertake at this stage in his life and mine.
I'm the youngest of three children God both cursed and blessed him with. You see,
Dad never wanted children. None. I think he was on to something but we sometimes
know for sure only in hindsight. So now my task is to capture the essence of Dad
to the best of my ability for now and for eternity.
I sketch, photograph and video-tape him ceaselessly. It helps to know there will
be some of him left behind. Perhaps I can rebuild our relationship from these fragments.