You weren't supposed to be the one who got sick, I thought. Not the one who swung me around when I was a little girl squirreling around the sturdy trunk of the tall man who entered the door at dinnertime laughing and kept all the monsters away. The one who taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car and took me on my first plane ride and who rebuilt a cracked Diesel engine block and fixed the roof and carried refrigerators and yet put it all down to hear me spell my first word. Nothing bad could ever happen to the giant of a man with an even larger heart, not the guy who thumbed his nose at adversity (and boy, did life throw its fair share of tests at you).
You worked hard and you cared and everyone could tell. I loved that everywhere you went, people beamed sunshine at you.
No, I never worried about you. I'm a worrier, but your grandma lived to be 101 and you never even caught colds. Doctors were amazed at your good health.
Maybe you shouldn't have used your body to carry those steel beams or those refrigerators. They think it was the ibuprofen that hurt your kidneys. That innocent over-the-counter drug with only the mild labeling not to take too many, and you, always careful with your health, never took too many, but somehow it was anyway. And now I am crying because somewhere someone is taking one tonight and doesn't realize in 20 years, their kids will look into a future for the first time without them and I want to say please, please take care of yourself.
But you had wanted us to have nice things.
You wanted to be an engineer but this was the family business and you were an honorable man. Life did not offer you a choice.
You worked hard your entire life and I thought soon you would reap the rewards; enjoy retirement. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. I was going to give you the money back that you paid for my school as a surprise because you believed in me, and then you would do something nice with it for yourself. You were always doing things for other people. Or maybe we would take a father/daughter trip to Japan or somewhere exotic. I would buy time. I wanted to buy time with you.
I would give you a kidney right now if I thought that would fix everything. I would change my entire life and give up everything I have if I thought it would help, cliched as these wakeup calls can be. But it really is true: nothing else matters.