The day before the horrid news came I was spending the day with my Grandma Jo. I was nine at the time. I had gone to a small second-hand store and bought a used toy to play with and plague my mom's clean side. (Occasionally you got a stuffed animal and fleas for the price of one!) My grandma has this wonderful trait, she always visits the elderly, so I would accompany her on such outings when I was with her. We decided to visit my great grandparents, Albin and Elle. They certainly were elderly, especially at the age of nine I always assumed they were ancient. I had a special relationship with Grandma Elle because she was my namesake and my ultimate role model so I always looked forward to the visits there.
I walked into the small main room where a table and set of chairs sat. To the left was an even smaller kitchen with a fridge filled with old photographs from the nineties to present day. Extended cousins, aunts, uncles and more graced the pictures. To the right was a small sitting room with a couch, old T.V., and various armchairs. Grandma Elle was also a collector, she had multiple treasured dolls and small figurines in a glass cabinet and a desk.
I tip-toed into the room where my Great Grandma was sleeping and sat on the sofa on the other side. The news was on and tales of thieves and court rulings played out from eye witness to reporter, back and forth. I was mostly bored, sitting and listening to my Grandma Jo talk to my Great Grandpa Albin. They relayed old stories of family members and incidental occurrences. My mind went back and forth and I remember constantly wishing a cartoon was on. Suddenly a news head-line caught my eye, "The U.S. Dollar is Losing Its Value". As the anxious young girl I was I looked from adult to adult. No one paid me or the Reporter Woman any mind. Thoughts rushed through my head like, 'What if I won't be able to buy anything soon?' or 'What is America going to do?' I was advanced in my mind at that age and I knew that the news was most likely not anything new, but it still made me question. My personal gauge didn't know if this was technically something that was to be considered breaking news or something legitimate, so I automatically concluded that it was something to be forever nervous about. Yes, I was confusing and contradictory at the age, I’m sorry. I've always had this habit that whenever I have something to be anxious about I have to get up and walk or pace. I automatically did so and walked to my Great Grandparent's kitchen and back multiple times. Back and forth, back and forth, until my grandma finally declared it was time to be heading out.
Before I go on I need to address something. My family and I are all strong believers in the Christian faith. Prayer and the Bible are always apart of our lives, through trial and tribulation, through peace and happiness. Now I will go on.
On the way home I prayed and prayed. That Jesus would take away my anxiety and that the entire world wouldn't lose all of the value of money. As a nine year old this was a big deal, and I thought a change would be immediate. Of course I was wrong, but it still hurt me inside.
The next morning I had almost completely forgotten about the money thing. I spent my day as usual, working on chores and playing with my eleven-year-old sister and six-year-old brother. We also had another brother who was around two, but he was deemed too young to participate in our games.
That evening my dad decided to come home early and take my mom out on a date. My dad's mom Grandma Lu came over after a long phone call with my dad and hung out with us. I don't remember exactly what we did that evening, but Grandma Lu brought some candy over and we watched a movie, probably Charlotte's Web.
My parents came home and Grandma immediately rounded up her purse and other things and walked out the door. I knew something was wrong, all of the adults faces were sad looking. I stepped out on the porch and noticed my mother crying.
"What's wrong, dad?" I asked seeing his own subdued manner.
"I'll tell everyone later." He said.
Oh, how I had wanted him to say 'Nothing' or to tell me immediately on the spot that it was just small trifle, not anything to be worried about. But when he gave me the answer he did, I knew something was drastically wrong, I just had no idea what.
But then it hit me, America's money had lost all of its value. We were broke and in a second depression. My dad had lost his job and we were one of millions that would have to live in a tent as a squatter.
Tears came to my eyes and one hundred and one thoughts came to my mind at once. I was still standing on our little red cement porch and I wanted desperately to go hide in my room or to talk to my mom.
After my grandma left my dad sat us all down in our living room. I had been seated on a comfortable blue chair that was quite large, Joy and James, my siblings, were on a large sofa, my mother was sitting in an old wooden rocking chair with my brother River, and my dad was standing on the edge of the carpet looking at the ceiling and then back at the floor.
"Dad, just tell us what's wrong." Joy said. At that point in time she was a happy go-lucky kid, nothing brought her down and she didn't deal with a bit of anxiety. She had tight curly brown hair and brown skin, she was spunky and sweet. As a toddler my parents had to stop her from telling strangers she loved them in the grocery store. To see her nervous was like seeing acid fall from the sky, never happening and very alarming.
My Dad looked at each one of us, individually. I looked at him waiting for him to tell us that we had to live in a tent in the middle of Idaho or something, it didn't come. Instead this is what he said.
"I had a doctor's appointment with the oncologist yesterday. To make sure the cancer I had few years ago didn't return..." He trailed off. This was nothing like I had thought he was going to say. What was he talking about? I looked over at my mom. Her blue eyes were draining tears, she was weeping silently.
"Apparently the cancer I had has returned." Dad said suddenly.
I stopped all of my thoughts, everything paused in that moment. I even think my mind stopped working for a minute.
"No. No." I said almost in a whisper. In less than a second my world was turned upside down and I was crying more than my mom. How could Dad have cancer again? He already had it once and he had surgery and it was over with.
"Will you have surgery again?" Joy asked, a very serious and hurt expression on her face.
"The doctor doesn't know for sure. He thinks I will probably have chemotherapy." Dad wasn't crying or deeply alarmed. Instead he just stood there. I think he was more worried about our reactions than his own body.
I started crying violently and he wrapped me in a large hug. I don't remember if I was silent, screaming, or somewhere in between. I just know it hurt. At that time in my life any form of any disease was like death in my mind. Even though my dad had survived this before, who could tell if he would again?
"Is Daddy goin' to die?" James said in his high pitched voice. At that point I was so mad at him. Why would he say something like that? Why wasn't he weeping or angry or even showing any sign of being sad? Of course it was because he was only six, and didn't know understand life as much, including cancer, but like I said, I was only nine and everything was magnified in my mind.
I decided I needed to go away and just be. I ran out the door, past the cement red porch, to a tire-swing my dad had put up. Everything I saw reminded me of my dad, and how there was an immediate threat that he would be taken from us. I wanted to cry and be angry and just hurt. Later my mom came out and talked with me, told me that there was only a very minimal chance that my dad would die, and that he would be very sick but would most likely eventually recover. That helped, but not much. I don't think I slept at all that night.
Weeks or maybe months passed, Dad started chemo and his chances were high. So many wonderful people, people we knew or maybe never met, brought us meals and gifts and just loved us. It was so wonderful, and even at the age of nine I felt the great sense of community and togetherness.
One day Dad announced it was time to shave his hair. I was nervous that I wouldn't recognize my dad, or that it would be just too odd for me.
We invited both sets of grandparents and various uncles and aunts over. Even some neighbors joined the event. My dad sat on a wooden stool in the middle of our patio. He had set up a time lapse and there was probably three people taking numerous videos. First my mom shaved a chunk off. Hair fell to the ground beneath us. Instead of someone crying or a sense of doom everyone was laughing and playing. A grandson of the neighbors was over and he played with James on the trampoline. It was basically just a small hair-cutting party. I don't know if we even talked about Dad's cancer at all. I have a distinct memory of holding my baby cousin as my aunt took a video. She had a very recognizable giggle that sounded constantly, and it was ever present that day. I was asked if I wanted to shave some hair off, just as my siblings and cousins had and were going to. I hesitantly took the buzzing, vibrating razor and watched as I worked hard just to take a small area of hair off. I was shy back then and I was also very embarrassed to be any form of the center of attention, so I quickly handed the razor off to my mom and she finished the job. I looked over at my dad, completely bald, yet still smiling. In the midst of the greatest trial of his life, yet laughing and peaceful. My dad was and is a selfie taker. He clouds the shared camera roll with work and home selfies. He is not the type that does it out of an obsession of self but out of a goofy way.
That night multiple selfies were taken, with each of his kids, with my mom, with my grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles. Each one sported his happy smiling face. A face that can only be peaceful in the midst of a storm because of Christ and the celestial tranquility he shares.
Of course the time was filled with fear, my mom recalls it was the worst year of her life, we didn't know what tomorrow would bring. Dad was constantly sick, he suffered from itching, hives, swollen fingers, and much, much more. He never seemed to show us any fear, however. Other than his constantly failing strength, ringing ears, and bald head none would actually have known he had cancer. In fact the president of a hospital he was working in at the time asked Dad in the midst of a meeting why he had shaved his head. My dad just laughed and didn't say much or anything. Another guy whispered to Dave, (the hospital president),
'Umm, he has cancer.'
A very flushed Dave quickly apologized and moved on to a different subject.
Throughout the entire time my dad didn't stop working. His boss kindly cleared a space out where he could sleep whenever he felt like it, but he just kept working.
One time we visited him during a Chemo session. I solemnly creeped in there, afraid of the horrors I would see or the pain my dad would be in.
Instead my dad sat on a bed, hooked up to something, reading something on his phone. He graciously greeted us and explained to us what everything was. Of course he took a selfie, this time specially modified with a fish-eye filter. I still have that picture today.
During this time he was featured in our newspaper once, wrote an article or two, and to this day he still gives occasional talks. He was the nurse who became the patient. For that was what he was, a nurse that was helping design a new hospital replacement. Ironically at that time he was also planning a cancer center, his experiences as the patient helped him tremendously.
There are so many other stories to share, incidents to recall, and memories to be thought on. I could go on and on about his love for us and for Jesus. How he stayed strong during the time when his body was failing him. Of course he fully recovered. To this day he is still designing the same hospital, watching it be built piece by piece.
Jesus carried us through this time and he still carries us today.
ALL EVENTS IN THIS STORY ARE NON-FICTION AND THIS HAPPENED TO THE AUTHOR'S FATHER