Luke’s dad had a horseshoe-shaped incision in his head, held together with big, black stitches when I met him. He’d just had a brain tumor removed. The stitches scared me, almost more than meeting his dad did. I was not good with other people’s parents. My parents were quiet, polite, and generally non-demonstrative, but in high school I discovered that not all parents are that way, and I didn’t quite know what to do with them. Especially if they had horseshoe-shaped incisions on the sides of their heads.
He started chemotherapy soon after that, so I never knew him when he was not sick. Still, he was spunky and cheerful, and yelled at his wife and sons with gusto. They didn’t mind, so I didn’t either– I guess. Luke confided that he’d been quite a handful as a kid (which I could well imagine) and once tearfully told me that he’d been a horrible son and he wished he could take it all back. It seemed to me that they dished it out on each other and it was all pretty fair and square.
Luke’s dad died in the spring. It wasn’t unexpected, but I don’t think that ever really makes it better. Luke and I did all the funeral stuff together. We took visitors at his house and ate all the food they brought. We stood with the family at the viewing. We rode in the limo to the funeral. I sat with him in the front row of the church. We rode in the limo to the graveside service.
I tried not to cry. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be allowed to cry. He wasn’t my dad. He was Luke’s dad. How could my sadness even compare a tiny bit to the sadness Luke must’ve felt? So I only cried a little, and as covertly as possible when I was with Luke.
When I came home, I would shut the front door, sit on the steps, and weep, sometimes for hours, because I was sad for Luke and his mom and his little brother, and sad for his dad that he wouldn’t get to see his sons grow up, and sad that anyone ever had to experience this completely unfair death thing.
And then I would make myself think about how behind I was on my homework and how I’d missed choir practice at church, and I would get up and do the whole Life thing, even though Luke’s dad was dead. Luke came back to school and made jokes and drew funny cartoons on my notepads, even though his dad was dead. And for a while, everything we did was even though Luke’s dad was dead.
But I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. Sometimes you have to do things for a while “even though.” And if you do things “even though” enough times, you remember why you were doing them in the first place.
You get better at the Life thing again.