“As my memory rests, but never forgets what I lost. Wake me up, when September ends.” -Green Day
September has traditionally been a bad month for me. That started 9 years ago to the day. Let me take you back a while, and in all seriousness, there probably will not be anything funny in this blog. Feel free to skip it, but if you stick around, you might learn a thing or two about me.
It’s January 2000. I’ve just turned 17, and life is good. I have either just ended, or about to end my most serious relationship to date, and that is the biggest weight on my mind. My family life is fine, aside from the annoyances of parents on my case about school and having 3 younger brothers that are always hanging around.
My dad developed a cough the previous December, and he went to go have it checked out. The family doctor, (who I’d literally gone to for 17 years) invited us into her office. “Brian, we think you might have cancer. We’d like to run some tests.” Looking back, I think she knew. I was the only child in the room, and I think she was shielding me from the future. I thank her for that to this day.
We left the doctors office and went to my church. The pastor invited us into his office, and we sat down. Neither one of my parents could say anything, they were both crying. “He might have cancer,” I said, “they want to run some tests.” I didn’t think it was that bad. My dad was the strongest person I knew. He’d beat it. Heck, I honestly believed that he might just cough it up, he was so tough. The pastor prayed with us, and we left. Such began the fastest downhill slide of my life.
Of course, he had cancer. Not just any kind of cancer, but lung cancer. Not just lung cancer, but small cell carcinoma. They caught it real early, and that helped things a lot. Once again, I believe us boys were shielded as to the extent of things. I was never invited back into another doctors office. He started chemotherapy, and what happened next, I’ll never forget. We had a tradition at our house on Wednesday nights that was called “family night.” It was not something that you could get out of. Oh, and how we wanted out of it. It was just us sitting down as a family, playing a game or reading a scripture or just talking. I would honestly give my life, if only I could have one more “family night.”
We were sitting at a family night one night, and kind of a skirmish erupted. Tempers were volatile anyway, and something was said and things got angry. My dad rubbed his head, and when his hand came down, it was full of hair. As I’ve previously said, my father was a tough man. He had been through a lot in his life, and it had hardened him. Looking at a handful of his own hair, he broke. He started crying, and couldn’t stop. I think I knew then, but I wouldn’t admit it.
I took a church youth trip to Mexico that summer, and that caused a big commotion. He didn’t want me to go, he wanted me to spend time with him. Again, I’d give my life to have that decision to make over again. The day before I left was the biggest fight I’d ever gotten in with him. I yelled at him for the first time in my life. Please don’t misunderstand, I loved my dad. I just wanted to be selfish, and honestly, if I’d have stayed, I’d have known then that he was going to die. I didn’t want to admit that.
Around the first of August he got real bad. Went into the hospital for a few weeks. I can remember driving my brothers to Tulsa every day after school, and remember thinking what a hassle that was. I was so selfish, but then again, I was a teenager. One day, they released him to come home, and I thought that meant he was going to get better.
I was wrong.
September 8th, 2000 is a day that will forever be burned into my memory banks. We woke up, and he was bad. The hospice lady was coming over that morning for pain medication, but was delayed for some reason. I can remember walking into their bedroom, my mother at his side. My once strong father had been reduced to someone who, while I was watching, tried to pick up a cup of water and couldn’t do it. I watched, crying, as my mother held it to his lips. He kept saying, “Hurry.” At the time, I thought he was wanting the pain medication to get there. Call me crazy, call me whatever you want, but I know now he was talking to God.
My father looked me in the eyes for about 3 minutes. Held my stare. Looking. Telling me without words that I was in charge now, that I needed to help my mother, look after my brothers, and carry on the legacy of the name, Sloat. I’ll never forget that amount of time. For the rest of my life, I’ll see his brown eyes pleading me to live that legacy.
I left the room, and went outside to talk to my grandfather, who was not dealing well with all of this. As I was outside, my mother and my 3 brothers went to my father and told him that he had been a great dad, they loved him, and that it was okay to go.
He took a last breath, looked at them all, and died.
I can’t describe the breakdown that occurred. My brothers came out of the house crying, and so did my mom. “He’s gone.” Folks, for those of you that have experienced it, you know what I was going through. If you haven’t, I pray that you NEVER have to.
September 8, 2000 I lost the man I want to be when I grow up.
Dad, I know you’ll never read this, and if you do, please don’t read the rest of my blog. I’ve done some stupid things, but I’ve done some good things too. Overall, I think you’d be proud of me. I married a great woman, and finally after 6 years of marriage, I think I might be getting her to like me a little bit. I know the church thing hasn’t worked out like you probably hoped, but I still love God and Jesus, and that whole bit. I’ve tried to help my mom out the best I can, and I do still keep an eye out for my brothers. I miss you like crazy, and the hurt has never really gone away. I don’t think it ever will. Little things constantly remind me about you, and every time I look in the mirror, I see you. I used to think that was a bad thing, but now I don’t mind so much. I wish you could be here. I know you’re much happier where you are. I love you.
“Every person carves his spot,and fills the hole with light.And I pray that someday I might, light as bright as he.
Woke up early, one bright fall day, to spread the tragic news.After all my travel, I settled down,within a mile or two.
I make my living, with words and rhyme, and all this tragedy.Should go into my head, and out instead, as bits of poetry.
But I say, “Daddy, I’m so afraid. How will I go on,with you gone this way? How can I come up,with a song to say I Love You?”That’s my job, that’s what I do. Everything I do is because of you.To keep you safe with me. That’s my job, you see.-Conway Twitty