We entered the start of the season with lofty goals and sunny dreams. We were free from school, free from schedules and commitments, ready to sleep in and do only what *we* want to do all day.
Instead, I've found myself counting down the days until school starts again; which is something I never do.
It's been hard, y'all.
My entire family knew my dad would not live to see the beginning of Autumn. He was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, terminal brain cancer, just a few days after Christmas. We've watched and waited all Spring long... watched while he had the tumor removed, went to rehab, started chemo, had a lifetime dose of radiation, and saw the tumor regrow just two weeks after treatment ended. The doctors said he may have 18 months left, but my neurosurgeon predicted just a mere 6 months based on his age. Unfortunately, she was more accurate.
We all went down to see my dad in April after we had been given the news that his tumor had regrown again. My two brothers flew up from South Florida to be with my other brother and sister who live in Atlanta.
We didn't do much while visiting my dad. Walking and talking were getting a bit hard for him due to the swelling in his brain, so we mainly just sat downstairs with him and chatted.
He didn't want any pictures of his shaved head and scar and I respected those wishes, as hard as it was for me.
We made plans to come back to visit as soon as school got out, but it became apparent that bringing three kids might be a little too much chaos. Yet, Kim admitted that she needed help. My dad was no longer able to care for himself during the day and she still needed to work. So, I brought Jocelyn down with me and left the big kids with my mom and Brian.
I was not prepared emotionally for seeing my dad so physically weak. He fell 3 times while I was there. He went from being able to use a walker to completely bedridden in a span of 3 days.
Jocelyn was definitely a bright part in his last days, though. He smiled, through the pain, when he heard her voice. She climbed up into his bed and gave him kisses. But most of the time she spent upstairs in the living room because even at 4 years old, she could figure out that Grandpa was very sick :(
And it was all downhill from there.
My dad passed away on July 7th, with his wife Kim by his side.
We celebrated his life on Saturday, July 16th with a small service at the church he had attended for the last 30 years.
They served Dr. Pepper and ice cream (along with various other foods) because they were my dad's favorite.
The weekend was definitely bittersweet. We were all relieved that he wasn't in pain any longer. It's been a rough 7 months imagining what the end would be like and wondering when it would happen.
But it was wonderful that we all came together this weekend. My uncles and aunt from out west came. All my brothers and their kids were there. It was great being together.
We all sure loved my dad, whether or not he was your husband, dad, brother, father-in-law, ex-husband, or Grandpa. Especially if he was your Grandpa. He was really good at that role.
When I think of my dad, I won't remember the cancer or his last days. I'll remember climbing up into his lap at the end of the day. I'll remember him playing "Puff the Magic Dragon" on his guitar. I'll remember him listening to Rush Limbaugh on 640 AM radio in the mornings. I'll remember him training his German Short Hair Pointers before taking them to the gun club. I'll remember how he used to flirt a little bit with pretty waitresses at restaurants and how he loved debating religion and politics with people he just met.
And even though I like Coke, and am a Liberal, and not active in church, I know my dad loved me despite our differences. Or maybe, because of them :)
LeRoy "Lee" Frank Staska, Jr.
January 13th, 1944- July 7th, 2016