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  • The Earth shook the day my dad had to go in for surgery. I mean, literally shook. I'm sitting at my desk at 2 A.M. CST, February of 2010 playing a game, and the earth SHOOK. I took that as a sign. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was a positive thing or not. However, I knew it was a sign. As I sat there trying to understand how an earthquake could happen in Chicago, I gathered myself together for the day ahead. This was a new, frightening chapter in my life. This was something completely outside my comfort zone. This As I fought to finish my messy hair with shaking fat fingers, I attempted to prepare myself. This was really happening.

    My dad started working on his fitness months before the Cancer diagnosis. "Something" told him to start getting fit. He dropped 50 pounds and ate right. He rode his bike for miles and miles. He turned into a handsome bird-legged creature. When he got his physical and found out about being in the early stages of Prostate Cancer, he got on top of it right away. Now, this was the moment he and I BOTH had to gather our feelings. For him, it was gather feelings and start doing research. It was time to get help. For me, it was all about "is he going to die", and "what's the eulogy gonna say?" I was not walking in faith but fear. I was watching a superhero who'd done everything for years have to get serious about his physical state. It was completely unreal.

    7 rolls around and I'm nowhere near done. Dad's girlfriend is yelling at me to hurry up. I'm scrambling to throw on enough gray and silver as possible. This is daddy's favorite color--silver. I'm grabbing my schoolwork, my book, my poetry book too. I'm snatching keys and a wallet, making sure I have everything and trying not to lose what little mind I have left. My daddy is going into surgery. MY daddy is going into surgery. I couldn't drive him myself. I'm his emergency contact. All I can do is wait for him. Still, MY DADDY IS GOING INTO SURGERY!

    A neighbor drives us to the hospital. It's the same one that housed and cared for Maggie Daley. He's going to be in the hands of William Catalona. He's going to be okay. As I see him remove layers and answer questions, I can feel myself shifting from making the declaration to asking a question. "IS he going to be okay?" This is during the time when soap operas are dying on our ABC channel. So we're talking, he's handing me his wallet, and I can barely hear the TV. I keep looking at him. Small room, white sheets, interns in and out. This is so real. My daddy is going into surgery. What if he doesn't make it? The question is stupid, honest, and on fire. It burns my soul. The anesthesia is closing in. He's drifting off. It's getting real.

    It is time to go and I retire to the waiting room. It's big, it's fancy, it's lonely. I'm the only speck of color in the room, with a few eyes on me. I'm a tall and fat drink of water with my black and white striped scarf. I'm a crazy African-American hippie lady with work boots and silver earrings just swingin' from my ears. I retire to a corner, trying to read a book for a college course. I turn on music to ease my mind. I get tired of the book. I begin to write poetry--prayers. I glanced at the patient screen holding my breath and regretting not telling a soul about what's happened. That's how he wanted it. I went back to my work, writing and crying quietly to myself. As healthy as my dad was, I kept thinking about everything that could go wrong. I wasn't being very brave at all.

    I kept to myself in that little room, having a pity party for one as I waited and waited. Then, it hit me. Call an aunt. Call a friend, keep writing poems. It wasn't about me! It was about my dad, and he needed me. If we were connected, the energy I sent to him needed to be as positive as possible. So, I dialed. I called all the people he didn't want me to call. I talked to aunts, friends, and eventually to myself. I was gathering energy and morale. I was turning it all around for my dad. If I came undone, I couldn't help him recover. This is when I found my bravery. My mother's eldest sister said it loud and clear--

    "Everything is going to be all right. He's in good hands."

    I won't lie--when I got a check-in call, I jumped up and dashed to the phone like a nervous wreck. Everything was fine, of course. It was all business protocol with the doctor, and it was all in and out. Cancer in one area, Prostate was all gone now. I'd been writing and writing for hours, sending him every prayer of hope I could. I wrote for the nurses, the doctors, the interns. If all hands were on deck, I wanted it to be a perfect procedure. Relieved, I went off to lunch with my neighbor. Coming back, it was yet another long wait. This is the part that took forever and ever, but my newfound bravery kept me afloat. I sat and sat, reading newspapers and watching crappy primetime TV. I watched the waiting room empty. I watched the loopy secretary intern try and rush back to her campus life, leaving the rest of us behind. It was dark by this time. Once daddy was out of surgery, the waiting commenced. I didn't have to exchange a paragraph of words, I just needed to see his face. I just needed to hear his voice and know he was okay. I just wanted him to look at me.

    There was drama at the desk. Apparently that loopy intern didn't take down all the names. The next woman in charge was trying to juggle us all around. It was way past the time of the late night news. Parking fees had doubled, and now some well-to-do woman was expressing her frustration with tears and wide blue eyes. Bless her heart, I wanted to cry with her. I wanted to hug her and hold her. I was in my own battle, however. I was worried I wasn't going to see him. I'm standing at the front desk with the rest of the crowd, attempting to remain calm, silent, and with my best poker face. I wanted to scream, whine, and complain with the lady. What was the hold-up?

    When the lady took my name, I was slowly gathering the courage again. Pleaded my case, tried not to cry. Sprinkled in some begging, tried not to cry. I was desperate. I looked her right in the eye. "I don't want to say much, I just want to say good night to my daddy." Jackpot. A quick, windy mad dash to the recovery area behind the heavy doors. Nothing but off-white floors and curtains, curtains, curtains. Squeaky sneakers, a jiggling body, and a nurse who just can't slow down. SLOW. DOWN. Then, there he was. My dad. 58, peppered hair, frail and awake. Looking at me. Like a tough boss in an RPG game, half my HP was ripped from my body. The energy of my bravery was halved and shaken.

    His voice was slurred and soft. His eyes were open, but he seemed gone. What an ordeal for him. Here I was all worried about myself, forgetting that he was gone from the world for hours and hours. Relieved he was alive, I said my goodnights and exited the building. I arrived home to a cold, empty house. Debating going to classes the next day, I disrobed and got ready for bed. The silence of the house was soothing. The mission was far from over, and I was feeling pretty silly about being so scared. He was in the best hands ever. Before I could toss my weary body into bed, the piercing cry of the kitchen phone cut through the air. Expecting it to be an aunt or other family member, I was shocked when I heard the voice on the other end of the phone.

    In sixty perfect minutes, my father had gathered his own strength. He called me. He was awake, his voice was strong, and he was making terrible, terrible jokes about fishsticks. Listening to the dry Capricorn humor over the phone, relief flooded my system. Happiness filled my heart. Fifteen years had been added to his life. Early detection and fast decisions saved him a world of trouble. I on the other hand found bravery I thought I'd never have in a million years. I learned that superheroes have moments of weakness. I learned that their team of support can make or break a situation. I learned to walk with faith while keeping things real at the same time. Baby, I was brave.

    He recovered. The recovery was a team effort between his girlfriend and I. She handled the up close and personal, I handled cooking and the other duties. We worked together and that year of recovery went by so quickly that EVERYTHING seemed like it was yesterday. Then I realized why the Earth shook--it was a sign of my world being shaken up. It was a sign that nothing in my life--or his--would ever be the same again. We don't get quakes in Chicago! So, it was a rare event to wake me up. Wake up, face reality, keep moving. Life happens.

    Above all things--arm yourself with bravery.
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