Good Debt

(The Clan: me, Dan, Jenessa, Ivan, Mom, Mom’s Boobs, & Pop)clan

Like most people in America I am child of divorce. Not just one divorce but two… err? I know you are either scratching your head in confusion or rolling your eyes so let me elaborate. The first time my mom divorced was to my sperm donor father back in the 80’s, I was really young and “consequently” couldn’t pick out my “father” in a criminal line-up… which is where I am very sure we would most likely meet. Then she married my Dad when I was 5 and he’s been Dad ever since… THEN they divorced when I was 16 years old and both are now remarried. Enters, Greg, my “step-step father” as anticipated there were some rocky years of adjustment but now we are great friends, I respect and love him, and he earned the title to also be referred to as “Dad” as you can imagine the amount of bullshit he had to endure during my “terrible teens.”

March 2008 my Dad (Greg) and mom came to visit Dan & I in Nacogdoches for the annual Kevin Fowler concert… it was later on that evening that he became suddenly sick… loss of appetite, stomach ache and sharp pain in his lower back. I remember finding it eerily odd that he would pass up on Dairy Queen Blizzards. The next weekend the family switched locations and I was in Houston with a sunday that came way too early. As I leaned into my Dad to kiss goodbye I locked eyes with him and his eyes weren’t like mine or anybody else’s… they were bright yellow. I had never seen such a thing and uncomfortablely fixed my gazed toward the floor and that’s when I noticed his skin was also yellowing. Back then I only knew that yellow skin meant liver damage… and I was shocked. He is also a dumb, old man and refused to see a doctor, he was almost downright rude in dismissing my concerns. A few days later my mom called to report that he was being hospitalized with some digestive issues and that he had been diagnosed with diabetes. I was angry he would let his poor diet and lifestyle bring such harsh and permanent consequences. “Just selfish” I thought. I believed him though when he said he would be fine and there was nothing to worry about.

The first time I met my Dad, it was at an Olive Garden restaurant with my mom, sister, and some random friend. He was nervous as he covered mouth, darted his eyes to the ground and extended his free hand for the sake of a formal introduction, and if I wasn’t so focused on hating him at the time I would have thought he was handsome. It was the most painful lunch of my life, I was in absolute physical pain witnessing my mom giving”sweet eyes” to another man. Fast forward to June 2008 and I am sitting in a Chipotle  in the medical center with my mom having lunch. I am not making eye contact with her but watching nurses, doctors, and students race against the lunch hour clock in stormy weather. I am listening and hanging on to her every word as she is delivering the news that Dad has stage 3 pancreatic cancer and was given 6 months to remain in our lives. I STILL think about which is I consider to be the worst lunch date of my life… one where Dad was entering my life unwelcome… or the one where I am being told he is leaving my life unannounced.

Stress and helplessness are not emotions my clan deals with very well. My hair was falling out, my sister stayed away, and mom had grown cold. Late at night in the dark corners of our house was the only time mom cried and only once did I actually witness it… and she shared with me the nature of pillow talk she had with my Dad. He promised her the world and reassurance of life… he declared himself “bullet-proof.” Bullet proof? I don’t think I’d ever heard it quite like that but his nonchalantness in the face of promising death was attractive. And inspiring. I felt like I had to step up and keep his optimism levels on high… but how when the rest of our family is color blue? That evening my pillow talk with Dan morphed into plotting… planning… which brought on the very first feeling of relief.

The next afternoon I started dinner and waited on my parents to come back from a doctor’s appointment. Grandparents and Aunts had kept our house at maximum capacity so providing meals at designated times was something my mom took seriously as host. The front door finally opened and in surfaced my sickly pop and a walking corpse that use to be my mom, they sat at the dining room table to fill me in about the therapy secessions he would be experiencing within upcoming months. I sat next to them handing my Dad a gift bag. “For you.” my voice trembled as I actually feared their suspicious facial expressions. Damnit I am an adult and its not like I was handing them a bad report card or anything! He held up a Harley Davidson Tee Shirt and… smiled. “Wow, thanks I’ve always wanted a Harley and now I do on a shirt!” He chirped and I got a side eye glance of mom breathing in a sigh of relief. “Glad you like it” I said calmly, and excused myself from the table heading towards the front door. “Oh, and Daniel got you a key chain.” I tossed a rubber motorcycle key chain with a key attached and walked out into the front yard. Moments later he followed me outside asking what the key was for and wasn’t able to finish his sentence… my sister was sitting on top of his brand new motorcycle with Dan, Ivan, & I standing beside it.

He didn’t say much… but it was the first time I’d ever seen a grown man cry. It was scary. We used some scholarship money to pay for half of it and financed the rest. I told him he would be needing something to “live” for in a sense and I couldn’t think of a better idea than what I presented him with. I expected him to hold his end of the bargain. He did. A year later and he is completely cancer free… and happy… and now my parents are biker people! He finished his last round of chemo a few days ago… and we can all really believe that this awful episode in our life is over.

I am the definition of a broke ass college student and I KNOW that having student loans isn’t the only debt to be considered healthy or beneficial. In fact, this is the best damn debt I’ve ever been in… and I’m up to my ears in it 🙂

Congrats on your biggest accomplishment of kicking cancer’s ass!

momandgregMom & Greggie… 1st ride!

harley2Greg & Joshie… my little monkey!

jenessandgregJenessa making a weird face and Greg’s Harry Potter helmet.

myturnScared out of my mind… and can’t figure out how to rotate.

gt44True Biker Dude & Dudette… bike trip to Austin. Mom had a whale tail! Bahaha!

rrweddingDancing at the wedding… and bawling my eyes out. The next week was his BIG surgery… we call it D-Day. He was so handsome that night. Perfect.

marathonValentine’s Day 2009: running Austin marathon for Greg, if he can do chemo, radiation, and various surgeries we can run 13 miles! I’m somewhere behind Dan & Mom. WAY behind. We raised 20k for pancreatic cancer research and were honored at a pasta dinner the night before, Greg was the ONLY survivor in the room. Tears.


**Interesting Fact of the Day** Currently Pancreatic Cancer is a silent killer, an estimate of 33,730 people will diagnosed in a given year and 32,300 will die!  Support Research! Visit PANCAN website for more information.

5 responses to “Good Debt

  1. Jo-you got me all teary-eyed. Lovely story.

  2. wow. brought tears to my eyes. amazing story and I am so happy for you and your family. what a wonderful gift to give him, too. so unselfish and giving. 🙂

  3. I am NOT a “biker people”!!!

  4. Lol at “I am not biker people”

    Great story.

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