My dad would have been 72 years old today.
Several years ago, he visited his doctor with complaints about stomach pains. A lifelong athlete, he was intimately aware when something was not right with his body. However, his doctor praised him for having lost weight since his previous visit, reassured him that it was probably just a bug that would pass, and encouraged him to continue whatever diet and exercise routine he’d taken up recently, since it was obviously working! There’d been no change.
Dozens of visits over a period of two years went just like that first one for my father. His sore throats and difficulty swallowing were dismissed as flu symptoms. The digestive distress and discomfort were just his body’s way of telling him he needed to consume less sugar and caffeine. The terrible cramping was only evidence that he should add more fiber to his diet. At every step of the way, he was continually praised for losing weight. In fact, it was touted as proof that something good was happening, and of course that was *bound* to be a little uncomfortable!
No one bothered to run the tests that could have detected the real culprit until it was far too late. The pancreatic cancer that had been eating away at him from within had spread too far and wide for the doctors to have any hope of saving him.
I will forever be grateful that his sense of humor meant we could still share laughs and silly selfies while he was on his deathbed. He could no longer eat solid food, but we still had lengthy and drool-worthy conversations about some of our favorite shared meals over the years. He even encouraged me to enjoy the cookies that the staff brought around: at *least* two for me, and an extra one for him!
So I’ve been tearfully toasting his memory all week with cups of sweet peach tea, just like we used to share over sandwiches when I was a child. I added an extra pat of butter to my spinach & eggs this morning, and felt him smiling with approval. And perhaps this weekend I’ll make some of those gooey chocolate chip cookies that he always loved so much–with walnuts, for added texture, of course! Because never once in his almost 71 years of life did he regret savoring those things, only that he’d ever allowed someone else to convince him that he shouldn’t.
My dad could have turned 72 today. God willing, I’ll live long past that. AND, no matter what, I will enjoy the foods I choose without hesitation or remorse. My father taught me well. I pray I can do the same for my child.
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