Three ways I let down Dad

By |  October 22, 2014 0 Comments

With apologies to guys like Mark Woodward, Matt Neff and Noah Gessler, my favorite person in this issue is Cammie Henkel (here). Because she did what I did not.

It’s been five years since I lost my dad to brain cancer. I already wrote him a tribute (“A medal for Boyd,” November 2011) so I won’t retell that sad story. Instead, I thought I’d try to write something useful, and tell you some mistakes I made when my father fell ill. So don’t you repeat my stupid mistakes.

Advocate for your loved one. After you read this month’s cover story, you’ll fully understand why I write that Cammie Henkel is the hero of this issue.

I remember when I saw my dad stumble in my sister’s house. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me he just had a headache from the long drive. I told him I was concerned, but I let him be.

I remember the doctors misdiagnosing my dad again and again. By the time they finally gave him a CT scan, his brain tumor was already a death sentence. He lived only another six weeks.

I thought the doctors were as concerned about my dad’s health as I was. Why not give a seemingly healthy 62-year-old man with migraines and dizziness a CT scan? Shouldn’t that be some type of standard operating procedure?

I still have anger with the way my father’s illness was handled, but in hindsight, some of the blame is on me. As his only son, I didn’t advocate enough for my dad… I didn’t do what Cammie Henkel did… and I believe by not standing up for him, I had a hand in his untimely death.

Ask the question, “What if I get hit by a bus?” Would your family know your wishes, your business, if you got hit by a bus when you left the house for work today? Would they know about your life insurance policies? About the money you have in the bank?

My dad and I never had that talk. Sorry, Dad.

He didn’t get hit by a bus, but during his illness, he was in a constant haze. I will never be able to forget him asking me, “Is this real?” after he woke up from surgery. The smartest man I ever knew.

Make sure you have that “In the event I/you get hit by a bus” conversation with the people you need to, because you just never know.

Realize that it’s not just a football game. From 2006 to 2009 my dad and I had season tickets for Kansas Jayhawks football. We didn’t make every game, but we made most. And the ’Hawks were actually good back then, winning the Orange Bowl in 2008.

I remember how angry we were when Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree hung 56 on us. And I remember playing pool with him before the K-State game at Rick’s, my favorite bar just north of the stadium, when we beat the Wildcats 52-12.

I remember the first game I went to after he passed, and crying behind my sunglasses as the ball was kicked off, not wanting my daughter, who was sitting in his seat, to see my tears.

I no longer have season tickets, but I do take my daughter to a game every season. (Shockingly, she’s never seen the Jayhawks lose in person.) Only since Dad passed do I now understand that the score of the game is irrelevant. What’s important is that time spent with a loved one, creating memories of being together, and just enjoying each other’s company.

But at least this last one, I’m able to get right now.

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