I know it hurt him, understanding after the fact that the cancer had not only damaged his lung but his ribs. I know that hugs for a long time had probably hurt, and also that he wouldn't have traded them for a pain-free existence.
Whenever I was sick, I would tell my mom to keep him away, out of my room. Because I always wanted to be perfect for him. Stupid kid. I was perfect in his eyes.
He sometimes said, when I was sick, that he wished it was him instead of me. I'm glad I was old enough when he died not to have taken that upon myself, to somehow have blamed myself for my ear infections turning into his lung cancer.
A lifelong smoker. An asbestos worker in the shipyards during WWII. A welder. A firefighter in the tin helmets/iron men era, when they called themselves smoke-eaters.
It's a miracle he lasted as long as he did.
He retired from the fire department around the time that respirators came in. It wasn't the same, and he was getting old - or so I thought, though he was only two years older than I am now when he died.
There's not a day when I don't think about him.