No curfews, Dad!After moving to California nearly 10 years ago, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The farther away I was from my dad, the less he cared about my whereabouts.

It’s true. When 2000 miles away, I would sometimes go for more than a week without hearing from him. If I did manage to track him down via phone, I could barely keep him on the line for more than five minutes before whatever baseball/football/basketball/hockey game wrestled away his attention from me. However, when I would visit Chicago, my phone would blow up before I could even exit the plane. Once he confirmed that I did indeed make it safely into the Windy City, I would then be instructed to call him after getting my luggage. From there, I would be told to ring again when I got my rental car. Given that I hadn’t lived with my parents for many years, I’d typically rent a hotel room while in town. Inevitably, I would also be given orders to call after I checked in. One time, I stopped off to get something to eat. While waiting on my Subway Sandwich Artist to add a little sweet onion sauce to my veggie patty sub, I could hear my phone ringing. “You should be at the hotel by now.” My father’s tracking capabilities are scary.

Now that I’m actually living at home, his skills have only gained in strength. Should I leave to get groceries, grab a Starbucks, or even go for a run, I’m told ahead of time how long I should be.

“It shouldn’t take you more than a half-hour to pick up some Sprite and those Stouffer’s I asked for.”

“So, what? You’ll be gone until seven o’clock?”

“It’s getting dark. You’ll be back in an hour.” (Note, not a question.)

One of the reasons why I love what I do is because I don’t have a boss watching my every move. As long as I get my work done by the assigned deadline, no one is taking note of when I arrive to work or clock out for the night. To be honest, though, I was the one doing the watching and note-taking when I had my last office job. I didn’t even enjoy doing that for other people; hence, my decision to leave cubicle life behind. Now, a new boss is in town, and I live in his office.

Perhaps his behavior is in retaliation for my own militant antics. Pretty much on the quarter hour, you can hear me ask, “You okay? You need anything? You need a refill?” (He loves his Sprite.) My father has decided that the living room couch is the perfect place for mid-morning, post-noon, and early evening naps, so I’m usually drilling him with questions as I make my way to the kitchen for a bite to eat or my own refill. If he doesn’t answer me, I quite literally get in his face to see why. Apparently I’m not the twinkle toes I think myself to be because more than once I’ve startled him awake. “Huh? What? Yeah, I’m fine.”

Given that he recently received at-home oxygen, I’ve also become a fan of checking his O2 levels on a more-than-needed basis. This is in part because he could go unconscious if his oxygen runs too high. Also in part, I’m absolutely fascinated by how this tiny device can magically know how much oxygen is in your blood when clipped to the end of your finger. I test myself as often as my dad. When I hit 99, I feel as smug as if I just got a perfect score on the SATs.

My dad isn’t as mobile as he’s been in weeks past, which may also explain his ceaseless need to know where I am at all times. He’s still a dad, after all, so I’m sure there’s some protective thing going on. Given that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to accompany me for errands and the like, I think he just wants to know that I’m okay. And that’s cool. Probably for the better, too.

Did I mention that my dad is the worst backseat driver ever? I don’t need directions to the same Walgreen’s we’ve gone to at least 10 times now. Gah.

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Diet, schmiet.

“Live every day like it’s your last.”

My dad is certainly taking that advice to heart. Which, ironically, is probably bad for his heart.

We found out about the cancer when my dad was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. His third. While his smoking was likely the main culprit in his health decline, his eating regimen might have been an accomplice as well. My dad has always been a meat and potatoes man, minus the potatoes. What’s the point in eating those when you can just have more meat?

Since receiving his diagnosis, he has thrown all dietary caution to the wind. It began when he was still in the hospital. Because a heart attack put him there, he was placed on the cardiac diet – or in his words, the “no flavor” diet. Not to say that he could eat only fruits and vegetables; on the contrary, hamburgers, beef stew, and even bacon were on the menu. I think my dad might have set a record for ordering the most hamburgers in a row of any patient ever admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital. And the puny side salad that came with it? He would immediately shove it toward me. “You’re a vegetarian. That’s what you eat anyway.”

Once he came home, my dad made up for lost time. Now that I have become his personal chauffeur, I accompany him each time he goes on a grocery store run. If Jamie Oliver were to look into my dad’s cart, he’d cry hot, silent tears. Hotdogs. Meatballs. Frozen Salisbury steaks. Oh, and a bottle of V8. Can’t forget those veggies.

My dad’s passion for meat is rivaled only by his ardor for desserts. He doesn’t discriminate. Cake, muffins, ice cream, candy bars, cookies – it’s all the same sweet goodness to him. Unfortunately, my dad happens to be an extremely generous man, so each time he sits down with a sweet, he insists that I have some as well. I can almost hear the seams on my jeans screaming for mercy.

He used to also fancy himself quite the cook – my dad can make a mean steak so I remember – but nowadays would rather just throw a Stouffer’s into the microwave. Since I neither eat nor cook meat, he waves off any dish I want to make. So aside from his sweet treats and frozen meats, the only other culinary option my dad will consider is takeout.

It began with Jimmy John’s. Before I moved in with my father, he’d tell me to pick up a few sandwiches prior to heading over to his place. At first, I was more than happy to oblige. For some unfathomable reason, Los Angeles doesn’t have Jimmy John’s, so I was downright giddy to grab a #5 and #6 before seeing him. The store was just down the block from his condo anyway, so it took only about 90 seconds (they are crazy fast at JJ’s!) to get my sandwiches and get on my way. So convenient. Too convenient.

Apparently my father is a man of habit because one week we got Jimmy John’s about four days in a row. I didn’t think it possible, but I was all JJ’ed out. Given that nearly the entire menu is inedible to me, I soon tired of my once favorite #6. So I Jedi mind tricked my dad into going somewhere – anywhere – else. I convinced him to try Potbelly… and now we’ve probably eaten there about 15 times in the last month. My dad finds the roasted goodness of the Italian subs at Potbelly highly superior to the bland cold cuts of Jimmy John’s. I once got him to try Jersey Mike’s, but the disdain on his face when informed that the Reuben doesn’t come on rye immediately told me that we would never pass through their doors again. He hates Subway, but won’t elaborate on why. And Chipotle’s meat is too hard. Now no matter what I suggest, he asks for Potbelly. And though my belly is aching for something different, I will not say a word. If my dad is on a mission to eat as many Potbelly Italian sandwiches as humanly possible while he has the strength and appetite to do so, far be it from me to oppose his quest.

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Back where I belong.

The tagline I thought up when I started this blog was “Tales of a Chicago girl in a LA world.” Well, this girl has found herself back home.

Two months ago, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. A few weeks later, I packed up my suitcase, left Los Angeles, and flew back to Chicago with a one-way ticket. Hence, the radio silence for the last few months.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think I would write about what’s been going on. For one, I didn’t want to betray my dad’s privacy. Second, I really, really didn’t want to spend more time writing about something that’s been on my mind every minute of every hour since May 31, the day I was told that a mass had been found in my dad’s lung. But I missed my blog.

Thing is, I talk about my life on the blog… and my dad for that matter. I knew that if I were to start writing again, it would be disingenuous to exclude my dad’s illness from my entries. So here I am.

I figured this was as good a time as any to restart the blog because this weekend my dad and I will officially become roomies. After more than a decade of living parent-free, I can only imagine the hijinks that will ensue once I move in. Why, you ask, after being back in Chicago for more than a month haven’t I already moved in with him? Well, I pay my bills by writing for the World Wide Web, and my dad doesn’t even have an email address, let alone a computer or Internet connection at his place. When I asked if he could set up wifi for me, he repeated, “Hifi? What’s that?” So for the last few weeks, I’ve been bouncing from house to house of no less than four crazyawesomeamazingwonderful friends who would probably just let me become a permanent resident at any of their homes if I asked. As of today, though, my dad’s condo is officially online. So now my nomadic existence comes to an end and a new adventure begins.

To state the obvious, cancer blows. My plan is not to focus on it – at least, not on the blog. Whether or not you have been touched by this illness, I think we can all agree that it’s horrible. I don’t know if I have anything original to contribute to the “how to cope with cancer” conversation. I’m still figuring that out anyway, so my strategy is to concentrate on everything else. Like how to cope with my dad’s incessant interest in watching golf. He has about a thousand channels – an Internet novice, yes, but my father is no stranger to the wonders of cable – yet if golf is on TV, he must watch it. To me, watching golf for five minutes is like getting stabbed with a million tiny tees for five days. I’m not so sure how this roomie situation will work out.

I’m also not sure just how long I will be in Chicago. For as long as my dad needs me? For as long as I can? Forever if it meant that my dad would be okay?

The other day he asked if I was keeping up with the blog. I tried to answer honestly without somehow making him feel responsible for why I wasn’t updating it. Then about as awkwardly as you could imagine, I asked if I could talk about his condition. His answer? “Sure. Tell everyone to send me a dollar.”

That’s the other reason why I decided to go back to the blog. My dad is awesome. I’m sure other people feel the same way about their fathers, and far be it from me to disagree. I don’t think dads being awesome need be an either-or proposition among sons and daughters. But instead of waiting until the day that I don’t want to think about to tell everyone of my amazing dad, I’d thought I’d start now. Plus, I promise it’ll make for much easier reading. If I were to write about how awesome my dad is in a single post, I might break the Internet. It’d be that long.

If you’d rather not read about some guy you don’t know, and many of you have never met my father, I get it. And to be honest, I probably won’t be able to help some sad stuff from creeping in every once in a while. I don’t blame you if you’d rather use your free time to look at kitten memes. But if I may offer a rebuttal… This blog is about the small, stupid, and sometimes happy stuff that happens in life. To be sure, my dad’s cancer diagnosis has made that mission harder. Though most definitely stupid, cancer is neither small nor happy. But even if he can’t beat his diagnosis, I will do my damnedest to make him and you and even myself smile in spite of it.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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