Several months back my dad took me to a Dodger game. We sat in the dugout club and talked about life between bites of our Dodger dogs. (Did I mention we are both gluten intolerant?) Kershaw was pitching. He asked about my job and friends. He asked what I’d heard from Andrew & Carrie lately. He asked about my dating life. Strike.
Then he told me about a book he was reading, a book that meant a great deal to him at the time. “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green about Hazel, a sixteen year old cancer patient who had eery similarities to my father (disease wise mind you, although I’m sure he and a sixteen year old girl had more in common than he’d like us to know). Both had cancer which had metastasized to the lung, spent 6 days in the ICU, both had 1.5 liters of fluid drained from the lung. Both didn’t want to “wound” anyone in their battle. Hazel refers to her cancer as a grenade. She says, “I’m like a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties”.
My dad’s greatest sadness was how much pain he caused his family. That his disease was our disease. His pain was ours and he wanted to minimize his casualties. He feared that when it all blew up, when it went to chaos, everyone around him would be left with embedded shrapnel.
And we are left with that in a sense. He left bits and pieces of himself to so many people. Bits of bullet in all of us. My brother emits his perfect balance of kindness and strength. My sweet sister, a true daddy’s girl at heart has his quick wit. Me, I encompass his “socially awkward while being extremely social” side, and my mom, at the heart of us all, is his rock. That woman is solid gold I tell you. He touched so many lives. His service on Monday, December 3rd was a demonstration of that. Everyone showed up, even his hair stylist (and what a feat because he would be the first to tell you he had very little hair). As Andrew said in a previous post, it was a whirlwind of a day but I did take a moment and think, “Damn, I am so proud to be his daughter and to have fought his battle along side him.”
The headline in the local paper the week after his death read, “Don Rhymer Loses Battle to Cancer”. Boy did that piss us off over here. This was a hell of a battle all right, but this battle was not lost. We are still fighting over here thank you very much. We learn from the best; my dad taught us well.
And as we march on, we are still in awe over the outpour of love and postcards we receive. We love hearing how he has affected your lives. But for now, there’s peace. No explosions, no grenades. And like we told him that Wednesday, “You can sleep now, Papa”.