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I have the phone tucked in the crook of my shoulder as I listen to him from the seat of my desk in my dorm room. Dad is trying to talk me out of quitting my music minor. “It’s too hard,” I protest. “Most of the other students have dropped out.” Somehow, in his quiet, coaxing way, he is bringing me back around. It’s been 14 years since then. With  “music minor” scrawled securely on my diploma, I am glad he did.

Fast forward from that phone call. We stand in the dealership as I look around. “Which is it?” I can’t stop smiling. Dad points. There in the center of the floor is a cherry red Chevy with a gigantic bow on the top of its roof. It is so perfect — unscathed, unscratched. It has 18 miles on it. It is mine. A few months later, I pack it up and drive to California. It has been 10 years since then. It is now scathed and scratched with the paint peeling back from its roof where the bow was and 92,000 miles on its odometer. It is at mile 91,254 I find out how Dad really felt when we hugged goodbye. “It was really hard for him when you left,” mom tells me.

Fast forward from the day in the dealership. I am sitting next to my sister on her wedding day, wearing a maroon taffeta dress. She is glowing. I think she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in that moment. My dad stands in front of a crop of round tables, as people in dresses and suits look on, their chins on their fists or tucked in their laps. In the midst of his speech, he sings brokenly the song he used to sing my sister when colic kept her restless through long nights, “Amanda, the love of my life, you will make a gentleman’s wife.” I am overcome. I absently wonder what he will say at my wedding. Six years have passed since then, and he still hasn’t had the chance.

These are the things that wash over my mind tonight — all those little memories that sum up my picture of him: wise, supportive, loving. I’m sitting on the laminate floor of my hallway, a passage way too narrow to sit with my legs outstretched. “Please God, don’t take my dad.” I’m crying. Not the pretty, subdued kind. The sobbing, gut-wrenching, begging kind. Like somehow, if I cry the hardest I have ever cried in my life, God will take mercy on me and answer my prayer. “Don’t take my dad, or I will walk away and never look back.”

The threat scares me a little. Do I mean it? I wonder. I don’t know.

I have lived life believing a fallacy: That there is some sort of quota on hardships. Once someone has reached that magic mark, they are done. But I am learning that past losses don’t exclude you from the present ones. Sometimes the inverse is true. For some people, it’s as if one begets another, like a snowball tucking in more snow to its girth as it gains speed downhill. I thought once my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that meant my family was done. I feel silly for believing that now.

My dad told me about her diagnosis while I was driving my car on the highway. “I have some bad news…” he started and I started sobbing. He has always been uneasy with tears.

That was four years ago. Tonight I was in my car again when he tells me about his own. “I have some bad news …” he starts. This time I hold back so he can’t hear me. But the tears come and don’t stop long past when I am sitting on the floor in my hallway. Long past after I go to bed. Long past the treatments are over and the tests come back clear.

Part of me is waiting for the next phone call as I’m driving , as if my mind is walking on the eggshells that are my family’s health and happiness. I can’t stop thinking about the advice and the wedding and the other big life events I need him for. So the pleading doesn’t stop with the good news.

“Please God, don’t take my dad.”


12 thoughts on “eggshells

    theinnerzone said:
    November 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Oh,this was very touching! I know about that phone call. I am only clicking the “like” button because it is so well written.

      alli w. responded:
      November 10, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Thank you very much.

    Melanie L. said:
    November 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I’m so very sorry for your stress. I’ve gotten those calls. For me they start with “Are you sitting down.” I wish your dad health and for you: strength.

      alli w. responded:
      November 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you @MelanieL. for your kind words. I know many others have had similar experiences. I hope you have reached your quota on those phone calls.

    Linda Roy said:
    November 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

    This is achingly beautiful. The way you fast forwarded to the various events in your life was such a perfect way to tell this story.

      alli w. responded:
      November 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Thank you @LindaRoy.

    Jenn Berney said:
    November 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

    “I have lived life believing a fallacy: That there is some sort of quota on hardships.” Wow, that was beautifully said.

      alli w. responded:
      November 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Thank you. 🙂

    Lyzardly (@lyzardly) said:
    November 13, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Fourteen years since my mom’s diagnosis. There have been recurrences and remissions, and yet as you put is so beuatifully, “my mind is walking on eggshells that are my families health and happiness.”

      alli w. responded:
      November 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

      I’m sorry to hear that @Lyzardly. I think that is my fear. I keep hearing stories of remissions seven, eight years later. So you quite never feel like you are out of the woods with cancer.

    inNateJames said:
    November 13, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I get this; I am a terrible worrier. But I’m thankful that I can appreciate having my parents and store up the good moments for when the bad ones come.

      alli w. responded:
      November 14, 2014 at 7:38 am

      And if you’re as fortunate as I am, there are lots of good ones. 🙂

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