My dad is the toughest man I know.
As a child, I knew there was nothing Dad couldn't do. He fixed our van countless times when it broke down on us during vacation. He lifted heavy boxes high over my head. He dove into the deep-end of our pool. He knew the answer to every math question I ever asked him. He could talk the cop out of giving him a ticket when he got pulled over for speeding. He provided for one wife and eleven needy children, constantly.
My dad turned sixty-nine at the beginning of this year, which means, if my meager math skills serve me correctly, that he'll be seventy next year. The thought baffles me. Seventy year-old men are stooped and gray and wear dentures. My father is none of those things. His hair is dark (although he has less of it than he used to), he loads and unloads bales of hay in and out of his truck all by himself, and he eats steak with his very own teeth. He cannot be almost seventy.
Now that I'm older, I know that there are things that Dad can't do. But when I attempt to describe him, the words that still come to mind are tough. Vibrant. Invincible.
Dad is a dragon-slayer. A gladiator. A titan. Nothing can bring him down. Not even seventy.
But a few weeks ago, we had a scare that something could.
A routine doctor's visit revealed that Dad had a low platelet count. Concerned about leukemia, the doctor referred him to an oncologist. The appointment was made for a week later. Dad didn't want anyone to worry over him, so he told Mom and no one else. But Mom needed to tell someone, so the news slowly spread to all of us kids. And the idea that there was something in this world that could take Dad down, an unheard of notion before, settled in all our minds and took root there, destroying everything that had once been so sure.
Until the tests results confirmed whether Dad had leukemia, I couldn't think about it. I couldn't or I'd break beneath the pain of it all. But at the same time, it was impossible not to think about it, impossible not to envision what my world would be like without Dad in it. It was in those agonizing moments that I faced a bitter truth: my parents are not going to live forever. Their parents hadn't, nor had their parents' parents. Even if the tests came back negative, someday, eventually, something was going to bring my father down. He can't live forever. Someday I am going to have to say goodbye to him.
He is not invincible.
As much as I wish he was.
Mom orchestrated a family fast the day of Dad's oncologist appointment. He received a Priesthood blessing. We prayed and attended the temple and put our faith in the Lord, trusting that His purposes were greater than ours, whether He chose to take our Dad or let us keep him on earth with us for a little longer.
After some preliminary tests, the oncologist told Dad everything looked good and the low platelets were likely the result of a lab tech error. A few days later, the test results were in and there was nothing abnormal to be seen.
We all breathed a sigh of relief.
I wonder if this experience was more for me than Dad, to teach me how fragile life is, even those things I take for granted as being permanent, unchangeable. Whatever the purpose, I thank Heavenly Father for letting us keep Dad here for a little while longer.
After all, we still have a seventieth-birthday party to throw for him.
It will be a party the likes of which the inside of the church building has never seen before.
We'd better start planning,
The Brown-Eyed Girl