Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to tell a story...

This is not in the book...

Dad died of lung cancer. 
That doesn't really tell it 
all. He also died from 
cancer of the brain, liver, 
pancreas and skin...and 
battled it every step. He 
went through far more 
than most; but no one 
knows his story.
Pop was a handsome guy 
and quite athletic. He played 
tennis, golf, polo and soccer 
and was excellent at all 
(except golf). He was in the 
sun constantly and had been 
all his life, but he was very 
fair skinned. He also smoked 
two packs a day. Blew a lot 
of smoke out his nose. I was 
about eight when he developed 
a strange little spot on the left 
side of his nostril that began to 
grow. Doctors cut it out and it 
came back...and began to move 
out onto his cheek. Skin cancer 
began to creep across his face. 
He became incredibly self-
conscious. He stopped people 
from taking pictures of him. 
He tried chemical peels that 
caused him to hide from the 
world for weeks at a time.  
With his bandages and scars, 
he was certain he looked like 
a monster. He once said he 
resembled the painting of 
Dorian Grey.

A Dr. Millard, considered to 
be one of the foremost facial 
reconstruction doctors in the 
country, was based in Miami. 
They took the skin from the 
underside of his bicep to 
recreate his nose. Again and 
again. Dad went two-three 
times a year. Every year. He 
underwent 18 operations to 
stop the cancer, and cosmetic 
surgery to patch him up (and 
they weren't too good at it in 
the early 60's). Insurance didn't 
cover much of this even though 
he was covered by Blue Cross/
Blue Shield. It's hard to imagine 
what this all cost him. Not to 
mention the chronic pain and 

It never mattered to me what 
he looked like. He was Pop. 
To me he was a cross between 
Roy Rogers and Arthur Ashe, 
but with a bit too much alcohol 
and tobacco. He did stop both 
smoking and drinking in the 
last few years, but the damage 
was done. A year before he 
died he could still whip me on 
the tennis court even though 
he could barely move. He spent 
ten years fighting cancer. He 
died in 1972 two months to the 
day after they told him he had 
it in his lungs. I’ve always 
suspected that his skin cancer 
travelled through his blood-
stream and took up residence 
in other locations. 

Arthur Aaron left at 56 when 
I was 19.  Father and son hadn't 
quite gotten there yet. We didn't 
get a chance to say what we 
needed to say to each other. 
At least now you know his story. 
This is a tale the raven tells once 
the light of the cigarette goes out...

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