To say my life has been less than perfect would be an understatement. I went to college just like most kids. Right out of high school. I went to the local university, but didn’t do a lot of studying. I really didn’t care at that point. I was more concerned with drinking, girls, and having a good time. My family would ask how I was doing. How I was enjoying school. How I liked my teachers. I conjured up a web of little white lies and deceits. I thought they were harmless at the time. Besides, I had the world in the palm of my hand. I was young and had my whole life to get my life together.
My life didn’t change much over the next fourteen years. I was able to keep up the little white lies and deceit. It didn’t seem to matter to me. I would just come up with another excuse why I hadn’t graduated. I changed majors, changed schools, even moved to different states. All the while I kept up my carefree lifestyle. Ah, to be young. I had lived a life where I thought nothing bad would ever happen to me. I was wrong.
It was a spring day in March. I had come back from out of state to watch a university basketball game. The original university I had attended fourteen years ago. My Dad told me he thought he had a hernia and was going to check it out that afternoon. My brother and I went to game and we had a really great time. Why wouldn’t I? I had no cares in the world.
We walked up to my Dad’s house that night talking about the game. They had won of course. Smiles on both of our faces, we rang the doorbell. My Dad’s fiance answered the door and there was a look of terror on her face. We both got quiet as we walked into the living room. My Dad was sitting in his favorite chair with tears in his eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad cry before, I thought. It was like a movie. He told us he had cancer, with six months left to live. Where had my carefree life gone? There must be some mistake.
After a few days I went back home. It was a long drive, about twelve hours. During that drive I knew that my whole purpose for being had changed. I never believed anything bad could happen to me. It was as if death did not exist to me. Then I started to do the math. Six months. That was such a short amount of time. I have to do something. Can I make it, I thought?
I packed my school schedule with as many classes as I could. I had an internship to do as well. There was no way I could make it could I? I scrambled, begged, and pleaded to get an internship to complete my degree requirements. It was to be a 200 hour internship, along with my other classes, to complete my degree.
My Dad and I had many phone conversations during those six months. Most of them were just me talking. He didn’t have enough strength to carry on a phone conversation more than a couple of minutes. Being so far away it didn’t seem real. He was there and I was here. “Can I come home to be with you?” I asked. He would not listen to such things. He wanted me to finish college.
So there I was, sitting in my cubicle at my internship. I was counting down the hours I had left. At the same time I was counting down the hours that my Dad had left. I wanted to complete them, but I didn’t want to complete them. Again I asked if he wanted me to come home. “No,” he said, “I want you to finish.”
There I was, driving those same twelve hours again, on my way back home. I got a frantic phone call from my Dad during that drive. He hadn’t called me himself in months. His voiced strained and cracked. “Are you coming home? When will you be here?”
“I should be there soon Dad.”
I walked up to my Dad’s house that day with the excitement of my news and the despair of the inevitable. I walked in and he was sitting in his favorite chair. He was a shell of his former self, barely recognizable. I went to his side and whispered in his ear that I had graduated. I had made it. He gave me a smile and a shake of his head. He told me that he loved me and how proud he was of me. I had never heard that from him before. And in eight short hours he was gone. He waited for me. He suffered and strained to stay alive to see me one more time. He waited for me. He wanted to be proud of a son he always knew that could do it. He waited for me. He wanted his final act to be for me. He waited for me.