Shortly after my 39th birthday, I got a call from my doctor. I had been been losing hearing in my right ear. The doctor couldn't see anything physically wrong with it so he ordered an MRI. I didn't think anything of it until he called me and told me, "The tumor is not what we're worried about". They had found an area with damage that they couldn't diagnose right away. It was either leftover bruising from a concussion, non-localized cancer or multiple sclerosis. They wouldn't know until three months later.
I was terrified. Our son had just turned two. My thoughts had been filled with all the hopes and dreams of new parenthood. Suddenly, they were all replaced with one single dream, that the tests come back OK, that I would get more than three months with my family.
I had always been good at planning for the future. Whatever success I've experienced has come from considering all the outcomes and planning every detail, but now, there was nothing I could plan for. All that learning everything about all the potentially bad outcomes could bring me was anxiety, and if these were the last three months I had with my family, I didn't want to spend them worrying. All I wanted was what I had wanted before, to experience as much joy with my family as possible. For the first time in my life, I was able to put off worry, stop planning and be completely in the moment. It became a lot easier when I thought there were but a few moments left.
To keep my mind off my mind, I started writing haikus about my son. It helped me to remain present through all the worries and celebrate all the little moments that I thought might be our last. These little dad haikus or dadkus kept me from losing those months to worry. Instead, I felt even closer with my son than ever before. This dadku comes from one of the days I took off after the call from my doctor to take my son down to Japantown. We ate ramen, bought silly glasses and bubbles at Daiso and ate all the mochi we could. When you don't know how much time you have, the joy you get from the little things is greatly magnified.
Eventually the tests came back and it wasn't cancer or MS. I could once again see a long, happy future for me and my family. Things didn't get back to normal, they were better than that. There's nothing like a health scare to help you realize that the time you have to share with your loved ones is not limitless, which makes it infinitely precious.
I've been writing dadkus ever since. At some point, I had so many that I wanted to share them with the world. I looked for an illustrator to help bring the scenes that inspired the poems to life and met Cynthia Yuan Cheng, whose warm, hopeful illustrations were a perfect fit for my poems. Together we'll post a new one every Wednesday morning, just in time to help you get past the middle of the week.
I hope these dadkus inspire you to make some poetry. Even bad poetry can make you feel good and once you start looking for poetry in your life, you'll find more and more of it. Like Kurt Vonnegut once said, "The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”