by Brooke Seguin

On an early fall evening, I drove across town to meet some friends, enjoying my new collegiate freedom. Even though I was still in the city I grew up in, my parents were far away in the suburbs, and I could taste the limitless possibilities: Dinner at Chili’s - the height of sophistication and maturity. I had no clue what this night would really have in store.

As I passed through a busy intersection that evening, I heard the screech of tires and the loud crunch of metal. There was nothing in front of me, but a quick glance in my rearview showed a car spinning airborne towards me, like a Bruckheimer movie. In that instant, my carefree 19-year-old self realized, crap. I was not impervious to bullets, flaming knives, or even car accidents. As the car made impact with my back bumper, I don’t remember having any thoughts, no life flashing before my eyes, just shock. I came out of it when a man was shouting through my window “are you alright?” I was. I was fine. I got out of my car and stared at crumpled bumper. And, then my vision opened up, and I saw the devastation around me. Twos cars overturned, people badly injured, screaming, and I was fine. Not even whiplash. And, that’s when I lost it. If I had been a second later, it could’ve been me. I called my parents immediately, and somehow through my hysterics they understood that I had been in an accident, I was okay, but they needed to come get me. And, there they were. They had come to my rescue. Not out of the ordinary. They’ve always been for me. I’ve always seen my dad as sort of a hero. He can fix anything, cars... MP3 players... he can even build a house from the ground up. So, of course, he could fix this situation. He would be my rock/my shoulder to cry on. And, cry I did. My already predisposed nature for crying was let loose in this situation. I cried hysterically in the car, in the restaurant where we grabbed some quick dinner, in the car again as my parents drove me to their house. There was no way I was going back to my mature college apartment by myself. I needed mommy and daddy. I was so overwhelmed with the knowledge that I could be gone. Just gone. (So heavy for a 19 year-old.) When we got to the house, more crying. Even my mom was crying. Wow, I thought, “She must really be hit with the realization that I could be gone too.” And, my dad was being his strong, silent self, occasionally lightening the moment with a joke or two. He’s got that wonderful goofy dad humor. If you say, “daaaad, I’m hungry.” You’ll get a “Hi, Hungry. Nice to meet ya.” OR my favorite “Daaaad, My head hurts.” — “Head like that, oughta hurt” Yeah, his type of humor is rare. It’s not the obnoxious standup comedian, center of attention type. But, the kind of sly funny, always armed with a silly comeback; and if you happen to be sitting next to him, the jokes are superfluous - a comedy show just for you.

As we sat down at the kitchen table that night, for a tension relieving game of family cards, I asked, “Dad, will you make me some hot chocolate?” To which he replied with his catchphrase, “What do you think this is? Holiday Inn? Where kids stay free?” By the time he finished my hot chocolate plus marshmallows, my brother had walked in the door, and I dealt out the cards. I was still a little shaken up, and mom was as well. Then I got the real blow. My father told us that he had just received a call from his doctor earlier; he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had a large tumor in his kidney. (Turns out the tummy wasn’t from just the good ole southern cookin’.)

At that point, the realization hit me. I had been so absorbed in my own mortality. But, my dad had received terrible news that night. And, as soon as he hung up from the doctor, he got a call from me and rushed out the door. He didn’t sit and cry, he didn’t bemoan his fate. He put himself last and came to help me.

I learned that night the brevity of life. But, most importantly, I saw who my father really was and what it meant to be a father. He was more concerned for me in a moment where he could have just let the wheels fall off. He’s not just a man who’s armed with goofy jokes, who’s good with superglue and killing spiders; My father would give his life for mine in an instant. He’s not they type of man you’d find in a “Sex and the City” movie or a buffoonish dad on a sitcom. I feel beyond blessed to have had such an example of a father in my life.

In the months to come, I watched my father struggle through treatment and surgery. It was shattering to see the man I thought was 10-feet tall and bullet proof in such a weakened state. But, he emerged only missing 1 and a half ribs and newly dubbed the “one-kidney wonder”. He’s still cancer-free today 9 years later, and back at work claiming to be “knee-deep in alligators,” and of course, he’s still reminding me to get the oil changed in my car and to avoid the crazies in California. (It might be too late for that one, but don’t tell him)