In June 2015, my father was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, after he had a seizure at work. I received a call from my mother explaining what had happened, and I did something that I have regretted ever since: I laughed.
Boy, was I wrong to do that. What came next was a year of nonstop stress, sadness and denial.
I am 15, my sister is 17 and my brother is 21. As a kid, you have this dream that your parents are superheroes, always there to protect you and give you strength; you believe that nothing could ever happen to you or your parents. So there is nothing scarier than hearing that one of your parents is going to die.
A few days after his seizure, my brother, sister and I visited my father in the hospital. My mother warned us that he might not be able to speak very well and that he had regressed back to being a little kid.
At first, this information brushed by me and I went on horsing around with my siblings. When we got to the hospital, though, I was shocked. My father, the man of the house, was speaking like a 10-year-old and acting even younger. He would scream out for his mother and speak about random things that had nothing to do with our conversation. After 20 minutes, he was too wiped out to be with us anymore. I was in shock.
My father stayed in the hospital a week or two weeks and gradually did improve a bit. Soon, the school year was over and I was shipped off to sleep-away camp for five weeks. By the time I got home, he looked much better. He was walking around, talking normally, and sooner or later, I thought, he would be back to his old self. Wrong. It seemed as though anything that could go wrong did: They found blood clots in his knees. He had to have surgery on his shoulder, which was injured during his seizure. He developed narcolepsy. His talking was words mixed with gibberish, clearly frustrating for him.
There were just too many things going wrong with him, and by mid-October, just as my freshman year of high school was getting going, I realised that my father, my superhero, was going to die. It was completely devastating.
I refused everything my mum threw at me even though I knew she was just trying to help: therapy, group therapy, therapy camp, grief counseling and grief camp. I locked myself in my room all day and watched Netflix, stared at my phone and didn't come out until dinner. I began seeing a girl even though I knew it wasn't the right time. I did no homework. I couldn't focus in school. Usually a B student, I got all C's and D's. The only time I ever felt a sliver of happiness was when I was out on the baseball or soccer field. But then I messed up my arm and was out for the entire season.
In late spring, more than a year after his seizure, my father was in so much pain that he just wanted to get out of his misery. His mother, stepfather, sister, brother-in-law and niece were all in town. My father gathered all of us in his room and told us he was going off all of the meds that had been keeping him alive. That was the final straw for me emotionally: Throughout my 15 years of life, I had never experienced depression, didn't even really understand what it was like.
After my father's death last June, my mother forced me to begin seeing a therapist. Just having a confidential counterpart to talk to about stuff that only I want to talk about has turned out to be reassuring and very helpful. I am still searching for the right girl, but I am not forcing myself into a relationship just to have one. My grades are looking up and my arm is all better. My soccer team had a fine season this year, and I was the captain of the JV fall baseball team. I have returned to being a teacher's helper at my synagogue.
When it finally came, my father's death was a blessing in disguise: I could not have taken any more of the emotional damage that I had endured as I saw him struggle in pain. My sister and I had just finished our final exams and my brother had come home from college, so we were all together. The relief was almost sublime. Anyone who has gone through a loved one's painful decline will understand what I mean.
More than a year and a half after his diagnosis, I still cannot believe that I will never see my father again. I knew him for only 15 years, when I should have known him for a whole lot longer. I miss him dearly, but I know that he is still here with me at all times, helping me through the hard times. Every time I come up at bat in a baseball game, I point to the sky, knowing that he's watching. Whenever I score a goal, I also point to the sky to let him know that I scored for him. I keep him in my life even though he is not physically here. I would say I am a very happy person now after a very dark year, and I know that is exactly what my superhero would want.