My grandfather died of cancer of the larynx in 1953, 11 years before I was born. My father was 17 at the time. His mother died five years before that.
Cancer robbed me of more than a grandparent. It robbed me of my family history.
What my father went through as a teenager I simply cannot fathom. He survived it, and thrived, graduating from Brown University and starting a career as an engineer. When we moved to Massachusetts, we were fairly close to his relatives in Rhode Island. Yet since my father was an only child, we never quite knew how we were related to anybody.
Understandably, Dad’s defense mechanism as a teenager and young man was not to dwell on what he could not control. His parents were gone. He moved on and built his own life. Yet talking about his own life and family, particularly those he left back in Italy, did not come easy. In fact, unless you asked him, he really didn’t talk about it.
It wasn’t until years later, when he had grandchildren in grade school, that he began to talk and volunteer information about our family history. Thank goodness for all those teachers who assigned their students the task of interviewing somebody from another country. So, now I know a little more, but the writer in me would have loved to have known so much sooner.
Cancer stole a grandfather from me that I never knew. Yet it stole from my father his youth. And for me, it delayed me learning about the incredible family I come from.
I’m riding in the Pan Mass Challenge for all the grandsons and granddaughters who never got to meet their grandparents. That could have been my daughter. It was years before she was born that Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Yet because of advances and technology and regular examinations on his part, the cancer was removed without radiation. My daughter has met and knows her grandfather and she knows his story. At 8 and with Dad still going strong, it’s safe to say she will remember him for the rest of her life.
Children deserve to know their grandparents. If you agree, please help me help that happen by donating to the Pan Mass Challenge. 100 percent of rider donations go to the Dana Farber/Jimmy Fund. You can make a difference.