My daughter’s hat went flying off high in the air above, just like the kite that soared behind her in the gusty October wind. Momentarily she froze, and then reached to her now bare head turning to retrieve her cap from the grass at the same time. She made quick, hasty movements trying to put it back in place.
“You look beautiful Ada Lee,” I called. “It looks better on the ground.”
Ada Lee smiled and timidly took the baseball cap—the one that was mine as a boy—back off her head and held it almost regally in her small grasp. She looked at it, turned it over, pondering her own thoughts before throwing it down. Now, suddenly unencumbered she continued to run with her kite. She skipped and frolicked through the meadow alive and happy in a way only children can be. The cap landed in a barren spot on the ground, completely forgotten for the moment. Ada Lee’s hair, short and as soft as peach fuzz, stood up on its ends with goosebumps, unaccustomed to a breeze of any type. She had become an old soul over the last year. It was good to see her this way, so full of life again. When the chemotherapy kicked in and waged a war within her eleven year old body, the cancer lost the battle and Ada Lee lost her hair.
It’s never easy to be the parent of a sick child. As a man, as a father, you are expected to be the strong one. I am the backbone of my family unit, though I must admit that not a day goes by where I wonder if I will suddenly hate my job, if the lack of life will make me quit. But so long as my daughter’s heart beats in her chest, I know I will enjoy it the same as I always have. Today is the twelfth and final day of my photo shoot and though each of them has been memorable, this is the one I’ve looked forward to the most.
Three months ago I placed an ad in an industry trade journal in my field of work, looking for applicants to partake in a photo-shoot for a one-of-a-kind calendar. Though I received many responses I was looking for professionals who stepped outside of the physical mold most people associate with our line of work. I hate stigmas. I received dozens of pictures of ghastly, pale faced men and women, most of whom it seemed had forgotten what a smile was. Their pictures were lifeless and that just wouldn’t do. This calendar represented just that to me: LIFE. Precious, precious life, as well as hope, with all of the proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California where Ada Lee spent the tenth year of her existence here on earth.
I’ve already picked eleven of the twelve photographs, one for each month of the year, with the physique of the models being the second incentive, after the contribution, to purchase it. A few months displayed muscular men next to mounds of dirt, standing shirtless of course, with shovel in hand. Others posed in various fashion in the parlor of my own business. I wanted my last picture to be outside though, outside with my daughter under the big open sky.
I lifted my head to the sky and sent up a silent prayer. Please God, don’t ever let there be irony in this picture. Let my daughter live and the cancer stay dead. The camera flashed and the twelfth and final photo of the calendar, Marty’s Morticians 2007, lay to rest.