I have this photo on my phone that makes me laugh every time I see it.
It’s been just over a year ago since I first snapped it. I remember I had woken up that morning around 4:30 a.m. because I had to drive my dad to UAB hospital for surgery at 9 a.m. He wanted to get there in plenty of time so that he could get a good parking space, find out where he needed to be and then get ready to go into the operating room.
The hospital had scheduled surgeries that morning before his, of course. All of those surgeries ran over, and so he was finally called back to put on his gown and all that just after 11 a.m.
I was running on fumes at this point. I hadn’t slept much the night before because I knew that I needed to be up early, and I guess part of that was nerves, too.
He had been back a few minutes when a nurse called my brother and me back to meet with nurses and the surgeon. We found out it would be another hour or so before the room and doctor would be ready for surgery.
My dad had this hospital gown on, and he had wires from monitors running from his chest, a blood pressure cuff around his right arm and tubes running from the top of his hand. All of that was stressing me out. It just made me uncomfortable to see it.
But, on his head he wore this big, baby blue shower cap, and underneath it he wore the biggest smile. He knew how ridiculous he looked and it cut that tension for us all.
So, I took my phone out and captured that moment. That smile makes me laugh. I see it every time I get a notification of a text from him on my phone.
That picture is important to me because of the news that came after it. Daniel and I found out a few hours later that he had throat cancer, and they told us about the intense radiation treatments he was going to have to go through.
What followed was probably the hardest six weeks of his life. He was miserable and constantly sick, but he never missed a day of work or church.
Since then, he’s made his life about making other people’s lives better. He’s constantly trying to make other people smile—his Facebook feed is as ridiculous as mine—regardless of how he feels, just like me that day in the hospital.
On Tuesday, he went back to the hospital. It’s been a year since he’s finished radiation treatment, and the cancer’s in remission.
I sent him a text earlier letting him know how happy I was for him, and my phone lit up again with that photo.
Bradley Roberts is managing editor of the Times-Journal. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.