In 1908, Anna Jarvis created the de-facto American Mother’s Day, and she was soon followed by Grace Golden Clayton in creating a Father’s Day. The modern-day commercialization of these holidays is sarcastically best symbolized by the miles-long line to the mall, but at the bottom of the arbitrary nature of holidays is, unmistakably, love for our parents. Whether they are still with us or they’ve moved on, most of us love our parents. True, I have friends who have no love for one parent or another (and for damn good reasons), but most of us can say they’ve at least had a good relationship with their parents.
So, what exactly is the follow up you, dear reader, should expect from an inflammatory, click-bait headline like that, huh?
This year is a very special Father’s Day, for me. In November, 2012 my father was diagnosed with serious liver cirrhosis secondary to Hepatitis C. He was placed in the care of a doctor whose best medical advice consisted of diuretics – medication that increases urination in order to decrease the amount of fluid in the body – and the reassurance that he would live to be 90 years old. For a time, this prediction seemed like it might hold true! For those of you who don’t understand the progression of this disease, as I didn’t at the time, allow me to cast some light on our outcome:
He received a liver transplant on the morning of December 7th, 2014.
As you may have guessed, I’ve left out a lot of steps ranging from “cancer” to “weekly minor surgical procedures.” To paraphrase Hugh Laurie during his stint as the ‘misanthropic’ and titular Dr. House: “You can’t live without it, it’s in the name.” In a much vaguer approximation of something House would say, “Death is never pretty.” By the time of his transplant, under the care of a much better doctor (rather, team of them) at a world-class facility, we knew that he was close. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), as of June 15th, 2015 there are more than fifteen thousand people waiting on a liver transplant; in 2014, only 6,792 were performed.
Not all of the organs donated are viable for transplant. as what happened to us the first night we got “the call.” I was evaluated a potential “living donor,” a surgery where a willing person has a lobe of their liver removed and transplanted into a sick person. While I proved to be a match for him, 72% of my liver is in my right lobe, meaning that my left lobe was too small to sustain a person on its own.
Then there was the surgery, itself: It actually went very well, and the physical procedure was as perfect as humanly possible. There were snags along the road, but they mostly arose from the relatively harmless concerns of balancing post-transplant medications, and those aren’t problems in the grand scheme of things.
Six months and a few weeks later, and – surprise! – it’s Father’s Day. It’s a Father’s Day filled with joy! He is alive and, while there are certainly bad days and difficulties, I will repeat that he is alive! He can throw a frisbee and was able to return to work, which is downright incredible!
It’s a Father’s Day filled with difficulty because he has only just begun treatment for the Hepatitis C, a treatment that is still cutting-edge and is very effective, but can cause headaches, exhaustion, and the kind of insomnia that makes someone feel dead, or at least makes them feel like they’re dying.
Then again, it’s a Father’s Day that might have been spent mourning him, instead of being with him. We’re truly lucky that he’s still alive, kicking – and, of course, complaining cantankerously!
I suppose what I’m getting at is that, yeah, people are prone to last-minute shopping; yeah, these holidays (in fact, just about all of them) are co-opted towards consumerism and generating windfall profits; yeah, some day down the line I’m gonna forget to get a card or get into an argument with my dad over something-or-another…
But Jarvis and Clayton weren’t wrong to say that, on the whole, our parents deserve a special day to themselves. Happy Father’s Day, dad. I love ya.