Yesterday I posted about my being a workaholic before being diagnosed with cancer. Due to my workaholic ways, I spent very little time focused on being a dad or husband. In today’s post, I will share a few specific areas I have refocused on my family over the last year. Many cancer patients I have spoken to are in similar situations. A lot of non-cancer patients are as well in today’s world. My hope in sharing this post is that others will look at their life and try to find ways that work for them to refocus on the family.
My wife says I was too hard on myself.
Before going on, I should mention that my wife says I was too hard on myself in yesterday’s post. I don’t agree with her. Yes, over the years I would try to find some time to be with my family. But even during those times I would be on my smartphone or a tablet working. Just being there physically doesn’t mean I was always there mentally.
I am actually present for kids’ events.
One significant change I’ve made is to make sure I am not only attending the school, sport, or other events for my children; but I am also giving my full attention. Previously I would be working on my phone. Occasionally at kids’ activities I would look up once in a while and maybe snap a picture for Facebook. People seeing my Facebook page at that time probably thought I was a much better dad than I actually was. Now I’m actively engaged in whatever the event is and genuinely cheering when I should be.
An excellent example of this came from last October when my middle son participated in a marching band competition. I did a post on this after the event. Even though my immune system at the time was weak, and I honestly wasn’t feeling very well, nothing was going to keep me from watching my son march in the competition. Over the last year, I have made sure to attend as many events as I could to watch him play with the marching band or pep band.
I am finding time to spend with each kid.
In case I forgot to mention it, I have three boys. They are Dustin (22), Lawson (14), and Ashton (12). One of the great things about being a dad is to see just how different each kid is. I am trying to try finding ways to spend time with them in a way that is special to each of us.
Spending time with my youngest son Ashton.
Ashton is the kid with which I spend the most time. Due to an as yet diagnosed hypermobility issue, he has to stay at home on his bad days. Because of his condition, he occasionally misses school or other events. During those days, I try to spend some time watching cheesy sci-fi or horror movies. We love to watch these movies together and heckle them (think MST3k).
This past weekend we went to a convention called SiouxperCon. On day two we both dressed in costume. I have included a picture of us in costume in this article. Over the next year an activity we plan to do together is to build costumes. We plan to wear them at the next convention. He has a couple of anime characters in mind, and I have a transformer build I am looking to attempt. Building these costumes will be a great time spent together planning how to make each costume; followed the fun of actually trying to implement those plans.
Spending time with the middle child Lawson.
My middle son Lawson is very into music. Over the last two years, he has been playing drums for the High School band. Plus he now has a drum kit at home, on which he has learned a variety of rock and jazz songs. Additionally, he plays guitar for a rock band he formed with some friends. Up until a month ago I spent a lot of time with Lawson driving to various rock band practices and high school band events. That was a great time spent with him in which we would talk about different bands and debate musical trivia. During the summer it became even better because he had his learners permit and he drove me everywhere (South Dakota I believe is the last state in the US that allows kids to drive at 14). It is hard to imagine better one on one time with a kid.
Unfortunately, Lawson now is past the 90 day period where he needs a parent to be with him. So now Lawson is driving to his band practices and school events on his own. To make up for this change, I am teaching myself to play bass guitar. I plan to hopefully jam out with him a night or two every week. I can’t think of any better way to spend time with Lawson.
Spending time with the adult child Dustin.
It’s hard for me to think of Dustin as a child anymore. I see him as a young man out on his own. Because he is out on his own, it has become harder to find ways to spend time with him. As luck would have it, I found a perfect way to bond with him through gaming. Growing up in the ’80s and well into the ’90s, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. In the early 2000s life happened, and I stopped playing this game which I so intensely loved. Over the last few years Dustin has been playing Dungeons and Dragons. His love of gaming presented the perfect opportunity for me to spend more time with him!
At first, I was afraid to ask to be a part of Dustin’s gaming group. Would he want the old man to around? Then I found out the group he is a part of includes people of all ages. Not only was Dustin OK with me joining the group, he asked me to be part of the group. I get the impression he had asked me in the past to be part of the group. But I think the old me didn’t hear what he was saying, and I probably said something like “yeah, someday I will.” Playing Dungeons and Dragons with the group has been great. On the days he is Dungeon Master, I get to see his imagination at work. I become so proud of him. Additionally, my youngest son Ashton is part of the group, so I get more time with two sons in an activity we all love.
Planting a garden with the wife.
One thing I have tried to do this year I spend more time with my wife, Mindy. She truly is my best friend and soul mate. Unfortunately, for several years I felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together. That is changing. One way we have spent more time together in the last two years is through gardening. Throughout the summer we spent countless hours tilling, planting, and weeding. As summer continued, we did more cultivating and weeding. Did I mention the weeding? Holy cow weeds like to grow!
Towards the end of summer Mindy and I started to harvest and can a lot of what we planted. I can’t remember the exact number off the top of my head, but we canned dozens of quarts of pickles. Plus we canned beets, salsa, chili sauce, pasta sauce, and green beans. Canning all of that produce takes a lot of time. We would spend hours upon hours just talking and watching TV as we canned. I looked forward to canning because it was some good quality time with my soulmate. Now that winter is here I hope we can figure out some similar activity to spend time together. I might sound cheesy, but I feel growing a garden has caused my relationship with Mindy to grow as well.
Hopefully it will last this time.
I hope that I will not once again fall back into my workaholic lifestyle. I have been trying so hard, and I believe I am becoming the dad and husband I want to be. Due to recovery from chemotherapy and my ongoing maintenance infusions, I do still have physical limitations. There are days I am too exhausted to do anything with my family. I have maintenance tomorrow, so I know coming up I will have some deficient energy days (once the steroids wear off). But I think if I can keep focused on the family during my good days things will continue down the path they currently are.
I hope anyone reading this post will think of one or two ways to get closer to their family. For me the key has been to find connections I have with each family member and try growing that into a joint activity. There are other ways I am spending time with each family member that I didn’t document. But I think I shared enough to give a general idea of what I’m saying. Having cancer makes us face our mortality. To me, the best way to face mortality is to make the best of our time with family while we are still alive.
PS. Once again, I broke my rule of keeping posts under 1000 words.
Song of the Day
I can’t write a good intro to this song explaining how it relates to the post without tears flowing. So without further ado here is That’s My Job from the great Conway Twitty.
The bonus song is how I feel about my soulmate Mindy.