Sunday, April 18, 2010

no superhero for dad

my dad, circa 1958
my work buddy vone and i went this last week to see kick-ass, the flic about a regular teen kid who dreams of being a superhero, and in this movie he actually makes an attempt to be one. i loved this movie for its moxie and cleverness, and vone and i had an amazing time sitting there drinking our fosters big cans and cheddar cornpop (smuggled into the place inside my backpack--so arrest me!). in the middle of the film, there was a scene where the dad, played by nic cage, gets lit on fire by the bad guys, and his 11 year old daughter, hit girl, a pretty kick ass "super"hero in her own right, has to kill about 20 guys in order to get to her father and attempt to save his life. well, the nutshell is that she does, and also she doesn't. by the time she gets to dad and extinguishes the flames, he is so badly burned that he only has a bit of life left in him. he dies just after he and his kick ass daughter exchange i love yous. he dies, despite the fact that she killed several men three times her age and four times her size and strength. he dies. the point is that, even though the father dies, you can't say that his daughter didn't fight to save him. literally. she fought. 


when my father died, there wasn't much fighting that could be done for him. he had cancer in his lungs and in his brain, and the shitty part of it all is that he was so stubborn during his life that by the time he went to the doctors and was diagnosed, he was only given six months to live. i remember that i lived in los angeles at the time, as i do now, and he lived in san diego, where i was raised. and when it came time to put him in a hospice care home, i knew that it would be a matter of days, so i went down to see him. what i saw laying in the bed was not the father i remembered--he was unconscious due to the pain medications--but it was my father nonetheless. the thing that shocked me the most was that, other than pain meds, he was not being administered any other type of medication, nor was he being fed intravenously. in other words, they were just "managing pain", and allowing him to die. i did not understand this. if he was still alive, why weren't they feeding him and medicating him? why would they just allow him to die?

i didn't understand hospice care at the time, and it angered and confused me. i wanted to scream, i wanted to fight, but i didn't. i just curled up on the cot and spent the night with him, waiting, like the hospice workers, for him to die.

he didn't die that night, and i had to go back to los angeles. he died a couple of days later...i believe my brother was in the room with him. what i remember most about that time was my feeling of powerlessness--my utter lack of ability to save my father. i was most definitely not a superhero.

now i realize that real life is not the movies. there was really nothing i could do--not a fucking thing--my father's cancer was days away from killing him, no matter how much medication we were to have pumped into him. and yet i wonder if it makes sense to anyone else that that was not easy for me to accept. the thing is, i don't know if i was ever a superhero with my dad...i wanted to fight for him many times during his life, but was usually just too scared. i loved him, but i just didn't act on that love as strongly as i could have. if i had, if i had acted as strongly as i could have, i would definitely have been a superhero to my father.


i cried when, right before he died, hit girl told her father that she loved him--not because she said it to him, but because he heard it. by the time i reached my father at his deathbed, he could no longer hear me. if he could have, i would have said "i love you, dad". in fact, i think i pretty much did say that. but if he could have heard me, i would have added something else. if he could have heard me, i would have also said, "i'm sorry, dad, i'm sorry that i cannot fight for you."

it's a good thing he could not hear me.

my dad, in the 1970's


  1. Thanks for sharing this story of your Dad....brings back memories of when we were 'looking after' my partner's Mom. She too had cancer and wanted to die at home. Luckily we were able to arrange this.....she died a week later.
    As it seems you did as well, these experiences gave us something that you can't learn from a book.

  2. Being there next to him and spending that night is what love is really about. People just don't do that sort of thing if there is not a sense of deep love. And you did. I say you are defintely pretty damn fantastic.

  3. ewe, i appreciate this comment. i did have a deep love ror my father, but love is complicated, of course. still, i feel confident that he knew how i felt.