So we have been getting to know each other for a while, right? And, well, you know I have 3 children, but I don't talk as much about my eldest. I have not been blogging as much because the college process has absorbed my life. He has been accepted into some great schools, and has narrowed it down to 2 schools, McDaniel College and Mercyhurst College. Sule Marquez-Monsanto, my athlete, my wrestler, my eldest, is a private and discreet young man, on his admission letter to McDaniel there was a handwritten note about how poignant his essay was. Well here it is. Let me know your thoughts.
On September 23, 2009, my father passed away from liver cancer. Although he was sick for well over a year, his death was sudden to me. We had only known he had cancer for a few months; how long he had been aware of it, I still don’t know. Other than the increased doctor visits and medications, his life had not seemed to change much. Looking back now it seems that I was in denial more than my father was. All of the signs were right in front of me, but I ignored them. I couldn't entertain the idea of him dying; the entire concept was surreal to me.
As much as I denied it, however, my father's actions became packed with a newfound sense of his mortality. He began to stress the things he had always wanted to see. I remember one weekend I was talking to him about how he was feeling and the conversation took a turn as he told me that he had always wanted to watch me graduate from high school. Dumbfounded, I was unsure of what to say; he had put what he deemed his imminent demise right in front of me, and I couldn't handle it. I brushed off the idea almost as some sort of morbid joke. He would be there to watch me get my diploma, right? I continued to assume that he had more time. Looking back now I realize that he had so much he wanted to communicate to me, and I never really listened. My mother and father had been separated since I was two, so my time with my father had become limited over the years. Prior to leaving home to attend Lawrenceville, I had regimented visits with him every other weekend. As I progressed further in high school, my time with him became more and more sparse. Instead of every other weekend, I simply made time to go over to his house when I came home from Lawrenceville. Although my visits to my father's house had become more infrequent, they were still a form of escape for me. My mother's house had always represented the mundane responsibilities and restrictions of my life: chores, curfew, nagging, etc... But my father's house gave me the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms my mother denied. Because I enjoyed a different level of freedom at my father's house, as I became older the “quality time” spent between the two of us became even less frequent. The movie nights and family dinners generally stopped happening, and at his house we shared resources but not ourselves. We occupied the same space, but we interacted less and less in it. Instead of using the freedom he gave me to build a life with him, I spent my time reading comics and watching TV. Now that he is gone I deeply regret all of the time that I could have spent with him. What I regret most about the time I could have spent with my father are all the things I never got to ask him. My questions about his childhood and his experiences growing up were never answered, because he did not consider himself the best role model as a child and young adult. During his time studying in the National Urban Fellows Program he was forced to confront his troublesome past while writing his autobiography. He never wanted me to read it, but as time elapsed he agreed to let me read it, yet I never went ahead and asked for the document. Unfortunately, he passed before he could ever give me his autobiography. The experience of my father passing has taught me to take advantage of everything in the moment. From this I have learned that there is not always more time. Rather than putting off the conversations and experiences that I want for myself, I understand that they must be seized in the here and now. As I say this now I can hear my father telling me to manage my time better and prioritize. He understood that the vast majority of life is fleeting and that is why it is important to take advantage of the present. Although I understand this now, I regret that it took my father's passing to make me realize this.
Life shapes us. Death shapes us. Parenting shaped me. I agree with Sule, "take advantage of everything in the moment." Life must be "seized in the here and now."