F*ck Cancer #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

Normally, I keep the personal stuff light and minimal, as my life tends to be boring and constant.

Today, I wish to talk about my dad. It has nothing to do with the election.

A little over a year ago, we got the Big C diagnosis for Dad. He was 78 then. In his time, he’s been a pilot, an Army rocket scientist, a NASCAR enthusiast, a Christmas tree farmer, a blueberry aficionado, and an amazing do-it-yourselfer for nearly anything. He’s been strong, capable, and an awesome dad.

Last spring, we found out the Big C we thought he’d beat had spread to his femur and pelvis. Little by little, bit by bit, we’ve watched him lose everything but his stubbornness and sense of humor. As I type this, he’s bed-ridden in the guest room of the house where I live with him, my mom, and my kids. He’s not expected to make it to Thanksgiving.

I only know some of his accomplishments because I helped my mom preemptively write his obituary. Which was a surreal experience. As I worked, I wanted to include jokes I knew he’d find funny, but resisted. It’s an obituary, dammit, and I’m not much of a humor writer. Even weirder was having my dad read it and say he liked it.

In the dead of the night, when everyone else is in bed, I wonder about other scenarios for how this could have gone. “What if…” the F/SF writer in me ponders. I can’t stop myself from doing it even if I wanted to. It’s how my brain works.

What if they’d noticed the cancer a year earlier? What if we’d lost him suddenly instead of this drawn-out struggle with nurses and transfusions and chemo and and and? What if we’d decided to move to where the folks already lived instead of dragging them to a new place? What if I’d made any one of fifteen different choices in my life that would have significantly altered my personal trajectory?

This isn’t about regrets. I don’t really regret any of those things, I just wonder. Like I wonder what would happen if an ancient order of knights hunted ghosts, or a secret IVF experiment unwittingly yielded superheroes. Same thing.

As a result of my dad’s unexpectedly worsening condition starting a couple of weeks ago, I won’t be attending EuCon or OryCon, both in Oregon. I was really looking forward to both, but that’s not a regret either, it’s just another thing. Before we moved to Olympia with the folks, I couldn’t afford babysitting to go to a day-long event, let alone a weekend convention. The freedom to do these conventions and events may have gone to my head a smidge and led me to oversubscribe this year.

And now, here I am, grieving in bits and pieces for what is inevitable but has not yet happened while trying to write a book about hope. About family. About love and pain, joy and disaster.

Dammit, Big C. You’re an unexpected, unwanted house guest that won’t leave and won’t shut up for five minutes to let us think or even breathe.

A few days ago, I encountered a problem and had the immediate thought, “Oh, Dad would know what to do.” Followed immediately by, “If he could get out of bed.” Pretty soon, it’ll be, “If he was still here.”

My Dad, 1937-2016 (probably).
He always knew what to do.


  1. I’m very sorry for the terrible experience you and your family has endured. Watching a loved one wither away leaves a mark on your sole that never fades. The old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is bullsh*t.

  2. This is giving me flashbacks, for obvious reasons. I’m so glad he’s got his family around him, and I absolutely HATE the cause. (And for what it’s worth, I wrote my Dad’s obituary, too.)

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