The summer after I turned 15 my dad got a new job at Sola, a company based in San Diego that is the second largest producer of lenses in the world and the largest in the US. It was his dream job, he was Senior Vice President, General Counsel and maybe another title too. I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the specifics at the time. He started working in late summer and went to London and did a few other international trips before going to San Diego to start work and look for houses while I started school and my mom packed up the house. My sister was already settled in Medford, Mass at Tufts. We were supposed to join my dad in two weeks. I’ll never forget the phone call. My mom and I were picking up a take-out order of soup at a cafe near in campus town. I was so annoyed because she wouldn’t get off the phone and I had to finish the order. I didn’t know what was going on but I could tell it was bad. Our realtor called my mom to tell her that my dad had fainted or fallen while looking at a house. Imagining my big, strong, composed father fainting is a hard thing to picture. We went home, my mom on the phone the whole time. I heated up the soup, put it in bowls in front of us on the table but I was the only one who ate. I watch her facial expression while she continued to talk on the phone.
My mom left that night for San Diego. It turned out that my dad had a Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumor, stage 4. For so long, I didn’t understand what that meant. I came out to SD just a little bit later, after he had had surgery.
In this picture, we are arriving at the apartment that Sola leased for us to live in while we found a house. We had continued with the move because we thought that maybe he would get better. I think the trauma of the experience is pretty clear in my body language. Trying to look excited but feeling like I just lost a limb. I don’t even remember who took the photo.
We stayed in San Diego for 6 months. I went to La Jolla Country Day School and my mom took my dad to all kinds of radiation, chemotherapy, physical therapy, and even holistic doctors. We got a juicer and made disgusting concoctions of kale and carrots. It didn’t work though. A new tumor developed on my dad’s brain stem. A place where you can’t operate because it would cause almost sure paralyzation or death. We moved back to Iowa to be with friends and family. Almost a year after his diagnosis he died on September 26th, 2005.