I haven’t updated in a while because things have been hectic the last couple of weeks. My father in law was taken to the hospital 2 weeks ago with shortness of breath and had to be admitted into the ER and then the ICU for what we believe is pneumonia related to his lung cancer. The whole family’s been at his bedside and visiting him continuously since then to give him strength to recover, so I apologize to all of you for not being able to update more frequently.
Earlier last year, he was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and he has been getting chemo and radiation for the last few months. We thought he was getting better – CAT scans showed that this tumor had shrunk slightly – but his breathing has been progressively been getting worse, particularly his ability to maintain an oxygen saturation level above 92. To give you context, a healthy individual at sea level under ~20% oxygen concentration (the normal oxygen concentration in air at that altitude) should be able to maintain 98-99% oxygen saturation in his blood. My father in law has been on 90% O2 and was having trouble maintaining a blood saturation level above 92. Part of this has to do with his lung cancer, and part of it could be due to pneumonia. Initially he was on a mask, breathing on his own (or at least trying to), but we had a scare about a week and a half ago when he couldn’t breathe on his own and had to be intubated. That is, he had to be sedated and have a breathing tube stuck down his throat and have a machine breath for him. He’s doing OK, and at least he’s able to maintain a better heartbeat and a decent blood oxygen saturation level. He’s shown some sign of progress earlier this week, but he’s plateaued – but at least for now he’s stable and resting. We all hope that this will give him body the opportunity to fight off the pneumonia and whatever else is ailing him, and fight back against the cancer so he can be taken off the respirator and can be extubated. Needless to say, my wife is anxious, as is the whole family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.
I am not writing this post as a tribute to my father in law. That’s too premature – he’s still got a lot of fight and life in him and I have faith that he’ll get better. But I write this as a reflection of fatherhood, and in particular, our fathers. I started this website to blog about my impending fatherhood, and perhaps reach out to and be useful to any other fathers out there, rookies or veterans. But watching my father in law and my wife this week has made me think about what it means to be a good dad. We rookie Dads (or Dad-to-be’s) often go into consternations trying to figure out how to be a good dad, what that really means, if we are doing a good job – and do all kinds of research to try to figure it all out. We read a million books, listen to way too many seminars and parenting gurus, and of course, visit way too many of these “how to be a good dad” websites. But in reality, our best lessons and our best teachers have always been right there with us, since we were born.
As children, and as men in particular, our fathers are our first superheroes, they’re our first teachers, and our first friends. As we grow older we sometimes develop a distance from them, perhaps because we don’t want to repeat their mistakes, or perhaps because we want to create an identity of our own. And then we come to an age when we become fathers, and we stare at the bump growing in our wive’s bellies, or into the face of the little dude or dudette sleeping in the crib and wonder, “Holy shit, what do I do now? How do I do a good job at this?”
Those of us fortunate enough to have been raised by good men are indeed fortunate because we have an example to look to. We may not be able to describe it easily at first, but we know in our bones what a good father is. And I would even be so bold as to say that for those who were not fortunate to have grown up with a father or a good man as a father still know intuitively what it means. It’s because there are men, like my Dad and like my father in law, who provide us with examples of what that means.
My wife’s Dad came to this country over 50 years ago from Korea, back when there were less than a couple of hundred Koreans in the entire country. To be sure, that was ballsy, and it must’ve taken tremendous courage and tenacity to do this. People of my generation don’t really appreciate how difficult it must’ve been to be an Asian immigrant back then. The country was changing –it was just after the Korean War, the height of the Cold War, at the beginning of the civil rights movement. He came here, lived and worked here for almost 15 years before he met and married the woman who would become my wife’s mom. She’s a formiddable woman in her own right, and the two of them raised a family. Susan’s Dad worked sometimes three jobs at a time to provide for the family as the family grew to include the boy who would become my brother in law, Jimmy. He later took care of his own parents, his siblings in both the US and in Korea, and never said no to helping his friends. All the while, as the stories I hear tell me, he never complained, he rarely raised his voice, he always made time for the kids, and always made sure that the kids felt loved, cared for, and attended to. He didn’t become wealthy, but he provided a safe, comfortable, and loving home for his wife and kids. He took them to the beach on weekends, he took his kids to boys and girls scout meetings, he took his son fishing and taught his daughter how to drive. He put them through school, supported them in their jobs and careers, and welcomed the young man and young woman who would become his son and daughter in law into the household with open arms.
We sometimes think that to be a good dad is a complicated thing, a grandiose responsibility. And it is, but sometimes it’s also as simple as just being there for your kids, and simply doing your best with what you have and teaching that lessons to your children.
I’m gonna close this post with a quote from Robert L. Humphrey. It pertains to what it means to be a “good” man, but a good man is a good father so I think it’s pertinent here.
Wherever I go, everyone is a little bit safer because I am there. Whenever I return home, everyone is happy I am there. Wherever I am, anyone in need has a friend.
And a personal request, a favor to my readers. Please pray for my father in law’s recovery and that he’ll get better so that he can see his son and his son in law become fathers of their own.