This past February on my birthday I posted about the Uninvited Guest that showed up at my birthday party a few years back.
You know the guest; the one who is never welcome, never knows when to leave and can’t seem to stay in its proper place for very long.
Recently that uninvited guest made another unexpected appearance at my dad’s 85th birthday party. This time the uninvited guest was quieter, more just lurking around in the background. I don’t think anyone else noticed, but I did.
Yes, that “uninvited guest” was cancer.
I would really like to know, why can’t “cancer” just stay away? Why is it always there, as if waiting for the next opportunity to pounce on somebody’s happiness?
A few weeks ago my siblings and I decided it would be lovely to mark my dad’s birthday with a bigger than usual celebration. I mean turning 85 years old is a really big deal.
When the big day finally arrived, I found myself feeling a little apprehensive. Why you might ask? Well, because this event was going to be attended by family members who had not seen me since before, you know, before my cancer diagnosis.
Even though everyone invited to the party was family, I still felt slightly ill at ease and I’m pretty sure some of them did as well.
Why was that?
Well, obviously it had something to do with the fact that I look different now.
I also wondered, do I act differently too?
Just how changed am I?
Do I make others uncomfortable? Maybe, maybe not.
Of course, that anxiety led to a little bit of guilt. I felt bad for putting a tiny bit of a damper on a birthday party. I felt bad for being that reminder; the reminder of cancer, silly I know, but…
The next way cancer butt its head smack into the middle of the festivities was when I looked at the birthday cake, or more specifically when I looked at the words written in green-colored frosting on the birthday cake, the words that simply said “Happy 85th Birthday Dad.”
Instead of simply admiring the cake, that uninvited guest seemed to rudely bump into me again as if to remind me that living to 85 is not necessarily something I should be counting on. I mean how many people get to live to be 85? How many people with cancer get to live to be 85? Hmm. I wondered what my chances were.
Of course, such thoughts were ridiculous; nobody knows how many birthdays they’ll get.
And I missed my mom at the party. Family celebrations still seem to be missing something without her conversation, without her cooking, without her smile, without her presence. I wished cancer hadn’t taken her away from our celebrations; away from everything.
I also did a lot of observing of people’s faces during the party, especially my dad’s face. His face looks older, of course, more worn down. It now has deep lines and more than a few brown age spots. His hair is almost all gray now. He moves more slowly, but still has a bit of a bounce in his step.
My dad’s a man of few words, well compared to me anyway! He knows more than I’ll ever know about history and a lot of other things too.
He also knows things he shouldn’t have to know; like what it feels like to have a wife with cancer and now a daughter with cancer.
I wondered which was harder for him… I wondered if he sees my mother when he looks at me.
We took lots of pictures at the party. We ate lots of good food, we watched grandpa blow out his candles and we enjoyed that cake with all its gooey sweet frosting. We made memories.
We were just a family celebrating a special day.
And it was a good day; even an uninvited guest couldn’t spoil it.
Happy 85th Dad!