I didn’t know who Marjorie Williams was. Until today. Last night, on my way to pick up my son, I heard on NPR about her posthumous book, “The Woman at the Washington Zoo”, which had been published recently. They mentioned that she had died of liver cancer earlier this year, so I felt compelled to read her story on the NPR site when I got a chance. I was shocked to find out that she died the very same day that my dad died, on the very same day: January 16, 2005.
So, I sat and read about her. I mourned for my dad while I read, and I had moments when tears were contained inside my eyes, as I read how she had to deal with hearing the pessimism of most of the medical establishment around her, along with the stupidly optimistic comments from others, in spite of how sick she was. I could not avoid thinking of my dad, and how he had such courage in the face of his disease.
He was a man who would not complain, in spite of how much pain he may be under. It was so much so, that none of us knew what was going on with him, until it was too late. We only saw him loose weight and complain about general itching and a pain in the neck. A man who never complained about anything, saying this things, should have spelled out trouble more clearly than it did, but all I could tell as his son that never saw him bend under pressure was that something wasn’t write, but we didn’t know what it was.
I was really pissed off when I read what Ms. Williams mentioned in the excerpt of her book that was published on the NPR story: “You’d be amazed how many people need to believe that only losers die of cancer.” I mean, is this true? Is it? If so, we live in one sick world, and I don’t mean a world of people with cancer (which we do see more of lately, it appears to me). I mean we live in a world full of people who are afraid, people who would rather run from sickness than face it, people whom I’d rather not talk to… I think.
My father was a great man. I don’t say that because he was my dad. I say it because I mean it. He was a loving husband and a great dad. He knew when to speak and when to shut up. He was 44 when I was born, so being 33 as my son turned 2 earlier this year, I can imagine how big of an effort he must have made to “keep up with me” as I grew up. At 44, I don’t think I want to be changing diapers or persecuting my kid around the house to make sure he’s not making the next mess. At 44, I want to be dealing with teenage “issues” (whatever those look like in 2016). Yet, at 44, he was raising me, along with my mom.
My father was a great man, indeed. He was a wise man and a man who knew a lot about a lot of things. It took many, many years (well beyond the point in life where teenagers typically get dissapointed, because they find out that their parents don’t know it all, and they are not the coolest thing on earth) until I could come up with questions he literally had no clue about. It took me learning four languages, before I was ready to take on one that he couldn’t tackle. I mean, this was a man who started and restarted in his life so many times, that you could easily tell that he was not attached to anything but his wife, his son and his God.
My father was indeed a great man. I can remember today how, while he was in the hospital, and you thought he had no clue about what was going on (I mean, he was all in pain, and in bad shape -I would probably not care about what’s going on around me, if I felt half of what I know he was going through), he still was well aware, and just like Mrs. Williams said in the story: “I’ll choose truth over hope any day.” Yet, in spite of always being brave enough to face reality, he always had a great sense of humor. A doctor told him one of those days in January in the Cancer floor of Florida Hospital what he had and what were his prospects (no chemo, radio or anything was going to do anything for him at that point). Late that afternoon, speaking over the phone with an uncle of mine, he told him that “apparently he had cancer, you know, but other than that, he was doing fine…” What can you say to someone that says that? We all laughed in the room… but silently shed a tear where he could not see us.
Today is not the anniversary of his death, though that day is near and the memory of his passing is still amazingly fresh. However every day I feel more and more that he has not left, and he continues to be around us to continue the mission he had. Today was just the day that he shook me up once more to make me realize that everything is so fragile, and we all get worked up so easily, while others have it so rough, and go through life having to bear so much. Today I learned who Marjorie Williams was was, but above that, it was yet another day when I remembered my dad and the great man that he was.