I think about my father every single day. I think about the pain and suffering he endured. I think about my father every single time I enter a restaurant or roam the food court in the mall. I think about him every time my senses are overwhelmed by the robust smells of food. I think about my Dad every single time I take a bite of food.
When I enter my favorite Italian restaurant the exquisite smell of food is so powerful I am moved to tears. I am reminded of the life my father lived for 7 years. A life without a morsel of food or an ounce of liquid. Choking on what little saliva remained in his mouth. Yearning to eat again, fighting with every fiber of his being to stay alive. Putting on his brave face and trying his best to sit at the table with us while we ate and he fumbled with his feeding tube. Listening to our guests complain that their food had too much salt, too many peppers (yeah that really happened!) as he quietly inserted the syringe in his feeding tube and administered his feeding via a peg tube. Quietly wishing that his biggest complaint was not enough peppers but also quietly forgiving our village idiot, I mean our guest for his ignorance.
The majority of our social lives revolves around food. We are constantly “breaking bread” with others. Holidays, special events, everything revolves around food. My goodness just count how many television commercials have food in it! Food is everywhere we turn!
My father died unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of liquid because his cancer prevented him from enjoying something so many of us take for granted. My father died choking to death on what little saliva remained in his mouth after aggressive radiation treatments. I’m haunted by the memories of suctioning giant clumps of phlegm from my father’s mouth during the final days of his life. My hands trembling as I stuck a massive tube in my father’s mouth, tears brimming my eyes as I pleaded with God to help us. Quietly praying, begging and pleading with God to make my father comfortable during the final days of his life. My father watching me with tears in his eyes apologizing to me that he was too weak to do this himself. Both of us emotionally exhausted and heartbroken from this trauma. When I finished with this medieval contraption I kiss my father on his forehead and remind him he’s still my superhero and a little suction machine wasn’t going to change that. I’m certain the sounds of my heart breaking were deafening that night.
I proudly wear the scars from my father’s battle. I helplessly watched my father bravely fight to regain his ability to eat again. Years of endless swallowing therapy, having his esophagus stretched. All sorts of crazy things just to enjoy one last bite of food. I become enraged at the cruel, out of line jokes when you mention swallowing therapy to someone unaffected by a swallowing disorder. Therapy that in the end only gave my father unnecessary anguish and was never enough to jumpstart his muscles allowing him to eat again. I see no humor in my father’s dysphagia. I see no humor in anyone that suffers endlessly and dies longing to eat. Even a criminal on death row gets a final meal before dying.
I choose to live my life and embrace it. If I choose to indulge today and have a big greasy cheeseburger washed down by an ice cold beer I will enjoy every last bite. I will not go complain to my Facebook friends how I “cheated” on my “diet”because I know better. I will not fall victim to the latest and greatest fad diet. I will thank God that I’m able to enjoy my meals.
On the days when my life becomes overwhelming I will take a deep breath and be thankful because I know it could be so much worse.