When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer seven years ago, there were two life events I was certain I wouldn't live long enough to see. The first was walking my daughter down the aisle.
The second was living long enough to see one of my children become a parent. In the past seven years, I've been blessed to meet three granddaughters.
Perhaps I should feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I don't find newborns interesting. They eat, cry, pee, poop, and sleep. As one of my sons observed, "babies don't do anything."
I just spent a week in Illinois visiting my newborn granddaughter. As I held her, I was overwhelmed by a rush of thoughts and emotions.
It's vastly different holding your child versus holding your grandchild. Time is precious. Grandparents know how quickly each phase ends.
It won't be long before they're talking and walking around the house. This means it's important to enjoy each phase, because they end so quickly.
I'm more focused as a grandparent. The pressures and cares of the world and career are easily put aside. The outside world ceases to exist in the precious moments of holding your grandchild.
As a parent, inconsolable crying was stressful to me in a matter of minutes. As a grandparent, I'm not a fan, but I don't get desperate so quickly. I'm more baby-focused. The panic or need to escape that I felt as a new father isn't there to bother me.
I'm not in the least bit worried about spoiling my granddaughter. Rather than use quiet time to get away, quiet time is the best time to hold her and behold the wonder of a newborn child.As I stare into my granddaughter's eyes, I'm painfully aware of how few memories both she and I will share together.
We're separated by time and distance. It takes 12 hours of travel time, with a combination of flying and driving to reach their home.
Then there are the expenses of traveling. Between airfare, airport parking, a car rental, and kennel fees for our dogs, a one-week visit costs north of $2,000 for my wife and me. For us, that limits our visits to once a year at best.
Our limited time together means I won't play an important part of her day-to-day growing up or creating memories of shared experiences together.
In addition, we are separated by a vast age difference. I'll be 66 this year. I doubt I'll live long enough to see her drive a car, graduate high-school, or fall in love. It's possible she'll grow up without many memories of the time we spent together. These thoughts bring tears to my eyes.
Cancer is a thief. It has robbed me of many friends and family. Saying a tearful goodbye as we headed back to California touched that nerve.
Like cancer, distance is a thief. It will rob me of the opportunity to leave a legacy in the life of my newborn granddaughter.
As we said our goodbyes, we shed many tears. All of us knew we would not see each other again for a long time.
The weekend we arrived back in California, my wife and I received an invitation to share a meal with our son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters. We are grateful three of our four children live in California. We see two of our granddaughters on a regular basis. We are part of their lives.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, comfort by comparison occasionally worked. So, saying to myself, "I'm fortunate that two of three grandchildren live a few miles away," might successfully distract me from my painful loss.
As a cancer survivor, I've come to despise comfort by comparison.
These include remarks like:
At least you have the good cancer.
Living in diapers isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.
You should feel grateful you're doing so well (when compared with whomever they know who died from cancer).
What are you complaining about when some men are dying from prostate cancer. (I've said this to myself.)
I'm blessed to see three of my children and two of my three granddaughters on a regular basis. That reality doesn't take away the pain and sorrow I feel about missing out on being a part of the lives of my family living in Illinois.
I consider it a valuable lesson I've learned from cancer survivorship that I can acknowledge painful and unpleasant feelings in my life and in the lives of the people I know without feeling compelled to make them or myself feel better with a comfort by comparison remark.
Has comfort by comparison helped you cope with unwanted change or loss.
Note: This article appeared in Prostate Cancer News Today
Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner wrote two award winning books. The first:
provides men and couples with information and support before, during and after prostate surgery.
Their second book was written for couples living with!erectile dysfunction. After living with erectile dysfunction for four years, Rick chose penile implant surgery. The couple share how implant surgery changed their lives and relationship.
The title of their book is: