When I was younger, I used to think I could write my father back to life. Life played out just like a novel. The big events, strung together, comprised the plot. But the beauty of the narrative was in the details. As a rational human being, I know that not even the written word has the power to bring people back from the dead. But it doesn’t stop me from trying.
My alternate history. The family formerly known as the widowed and the fatherless.
We live in the same place. My parents are proud of the little house they paid cash for, even though a loan had to be taken out to afford the remodel. One bedroom doesn’t house three growing boys very well. My dad went back to school, after the cancer was gone. Got his teaching certificate, and then a job at our local high school teaching English. Or history. We don’t live a life of luxury, but we appreciate the stability of a tenured teaching position. It beats the short-lived stints at insurance companies, followed by months of unemployment.
Because this is an alternate history, I avoided the years of cutting and pill-popping that were my actual junior high experience. I got a 4.0 every semester, went on to be VP of the Freshmen class, because the gpa requirement was higher for vice than for president. I was not, by any means, the obedient daughter I was raised to be. But I was open about it.
There are no secrets in our family.
Today, I am in my final semester at Princeton. Chuck is about to start his second semester at USC. We are both on full-ride scholarships. Evan is a musical prodigy, who has absorbed Dad’s talent for both composition and playing by ear. Dad even broke out his old recording equipment, and hooked it up to the Clavinova. Paul is Mom’s sport star. He’s a free spirit, and that irks Dad. But Paul gets spoiled, nonetheless.
Mom went back to school and got her Master’s degree in Social Work. She works part-time as an LCSW for a clinic downtown, and talks about going full-time when she and Dad are empty nesters. Dad is still head-over-heels for Mom, and she feels the same way about him. 23.5 years of marriage will do that to a couple.
We all volunteer whatever free time we have to people going through cancer treatment, whether it’s to babysit while they see the doctor, or to read to them so they have visitors, or to stop in and bring groceries to them. We know our family could not have made it through the havoc that tumor wreaked on my dad if it weren’t for kindly people who looked out for us. We do all we can to give back.
And each year, we take one big vacation as a family. We are aware of how short life is, and how dangerous it is to put everything off until someday. Someday never comes. We only have right now, and we intend to use that time with the people we love. We plan on hitting up the Heritage Jazz Festival in New Orleans, after my graduation.
Only Dad and I actually like jazz, but I’ve been lobbying for a Dixieland trip since I went to the Fest in high school.
Dad has been in remission for ten years, come March. Mom says a happy, healthy family is all she could ask for as she turns 45, but Dad’s going to take her to Victoria anyway.
All things considered, life is good.
And it will be, for years to come.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
But despite the craziness that is my actual reality, I do not know if I would trade in this story for that one.
I would like to think, on some level, that doesn’t make me a terrible human being.
But, all things considered, life? Life is good. And I intend for it to continue to improve.
For years to come.