Skip to main content Skip to navigation

“For Dad” by Kaden Sanne

“Kaden, can I get a hand with this?” my dad asked.

I let out a sigh. Why does he always ask me to do this? I have three sisters who can help.

I paused my game of Zelda in the living room and walked into the kitchen to help him. My mom stood a few feet away, circling the table and picking up leftover dishes. The pile of plates she collected began to topple from her hand and she gently placed them back on the table. She tied her thick blonde hair up in a ponytail and let out a sigh. She had been constantly picking up after everyone for the past couple weeks and my dad was too sick to help with anything. Tonight was the first time he had gotten out of bed and he still had to brace himself on the counter after standing for more than a minute.

I grabbed the steaming plate my dad handed me from the dishwasher and made sure to bang it a little on the counter to show my frustration.

“Ugh, Kaden, be careful!” he shouted in annoyance.

I tried not to grin while I climbed on the countertop to put it away. My dad groaned as he bent down, reaching into the dishwasher to pull out a plate. Every time he extended his arm, the motion appeared to be taking a toll on him.

“So Dad, I got a B+ on my math test today!” I said.

He was still clearly mad about my attitude and my plate banging. “That’s great, Kaden,” he said with no emotion.

“Yeah, can we ride our bikes to Baskin Robbins?” I asked.

“Kaden, I’m too tired, we can go another time.”

“But dad! I …”


He reached into the dishwasher again to grab some silverware, then quickly jumped back and winced in pain. A deep cut ran along the side of his palm and blood started flowing down his arm. My mom quickly got up from the table, grabbed a towel and frantically wrapped it around his hand.

“Kaden, grab the first aid box!” She said.

Since I was already on the counter I hopped over the stove and reached as high as my arms would let me to grab the blue and white box. My dad held his hand tightly while I tossed it to my mom. He tried to keep pressure on the wound but blood started seeping through the yellow dishtowel.

My mom and dad went into the bathroom to stop the bleeding as best they could. When they came out, they told my sisters and I that they were going to the doctor to get stitches. I wanted to go with them, but they told me to go to bed and they would handle it. My parents called the girl next door to baby-sit us until they got home later that night. It had been a strange night and for once I was actually looking forward to going to bed. As I laid in the darkness I began to worry about my dad. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, so I flicked open my Gameboy and played Pokémon until I was too tired to think and fell asleep.

The next day, I sat on the steps outside the main office of our grade school. My three sisters were next to me, sitting one in front of the next, doing each other’s hair.

“Where’s mommy?” Hailey asked.

“She’s going to be late,” I said.

All the other kids had been picked up by their parents and were free from the grasp of elementary school. I stared down at the pink slip of paper that I had received a couple hours earlier. When my teacher handed it to me I was excited, praying that it was an excused absence so I could go home and skip the classroom assignment for the day. Unfortunately, the only thing it said was that my mom would be late picking me up and I needed to wait outside the office after school. Eventually, my mom pulled up in our gray minivan. The automatic doors opened to the side and my sisters climbed up into their car seats. Hailey and Ashtyn argued about who was going to end up in the back seat with Sayler like they did every day and I opened the front passenger door to sit shotgun. I immediately tensed up; ready for my mom to explain once again that at ten years old I wasn’t allowed to sit up front. I would beg to stay until she snapped her fingers, commanding me to get in the back. But this time was different. As I looked out the front window to avoid eye contact, my mom put the car in gear and began to drive. She didn’t say a word to anyone and I looked over in amazement. Her mascara was slightly smeared and her eyes looked heavy. My slight happiness dwindled into concern as she drove. My sisters were too busy bothering each other in the back seat to notice that something was very wrong. My mom kept her focus straight ahead and breathed at an uneven pace. I looked up at her and asked, “Mom, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said.

At home, my dad was on the couch again watching TV. I went over to him and asked to see his stitches. He was quiet as he lifted his hand to show me what a dozen stitches looks like. I quickly turned away. “Ewww!” I said.

He gave a tired smile and said softly, “Yeah, I’ve got to be more careful.”

“Mom looked upset today in the car,” I said. “Is everything okay?”

His eyes became glossy and heavy, like my mom’s. Another tired smile appeared on his face as he said, “Yeah, everything’s okay buddy. Daddy just isn’t feeling too well.”

“Oh, okay. Well I hope you feel better,” I said. I went up to my room and searched for my Gameboy, hoping to forget about the things I didn’t understand. I found it and ran to my parent’s room to play it in my favorite hideaway under their bed.

I crawled under the king-sized frame and laid on my stomach in the darkness. The sheets fell all around the bed and enclosed me in my own little world. I flicked the switch on the side of my Gameboy and the familiar chime of the Nintendo logo greeted me. I heard someone walking up the stairs and recognized the sound of my mom’s footsteps. When she reached the top of the stairs she entered the room and closed the door. I quickly turned the sound off on my Gameboy so she didn’t know I was under the bed. I could hear her whimpering and sniffing frantically. She fell to her knees at the foot of the bed and buried her head in the comforter. Her breathing was dangerously fast as she grabbed a pillow and sobbed violently into it. I was frozen in fear as she began to scream. The bedding draped around the frame inched its way up as my mother wept.

“Why, God? Why?” she asked over and over. “The kids. What am I going to do? Not my husband, God, please …” Her weeping stopped when she heard a faint knock on the door.

“Mommy, can you make Mac-n-cheese?” It was Sayler.

“Yeah, Mommy will be out in a min—ute,” she said with a crack in her voice.

She collapsed onto the floor. I could see her face staring up at the ceiling through the gap in the bedding. I froze so that she wouldn’t hear me breathing just inches away. As she gazed upward, the light in her blue eyes was gone. She looked alone.

All of a sudden she caught her breath, closed her eyes, and sat up. She exhaled slowly, got to her feet and walked out.

I began to feel lightheaded and realized I was holding my breath. I started to feel claustrophobic trapped under the bed, so I quickly crawled out and stood up. The light coming through the window was blinding, and I began to fall over. I braced myself on the bed and looked down at the white pillow. It was soaked from my mother’s tears and stained with black smudges. I quickly exited my parents’ bedroom and locked myself in mine.

That night, my mom and dad called my sisters and I into Hailey and Ashtyn’s room. I climbed up the ladder to the top bunk of their bed and sat with Hailey. My parents sat close to each other on the floor and waited for everyone to get situated. My dad held my mom’s hand and stared at the carpet, never making eye contact. He opened his mouth several times and with each painful syllable came a crack in his voice that overpowered anything he was trying to say.

“Daddy’s very sick,” he finally said.

“What kind of sick, Daddy?” asked Ashtyn.

My parents looked at each other for a brief moment and the sadness in their eyes was overwhelming. My mom scooted closer to her and said quietly, “It’s called leukemia and it’s a really bad sickness.”

Ashtyn looked confused.

“Well, when will he be better?” she asked.

My dad spoke up again. “Well, honey, that’s why we’re telling you this. Daddy is only going to be with you for about one more month.” A tear slipped down his cheek as he struggled to give her a reassuring smile. “It’ll be alright, Ash,” he said.

My bird’s eye view of the situation distanced me and made me feel like this was all a dream. He was only going to be here for another month? Where was he going? Who would take me fishing? Or ride bikes with me to get ice cream?

The next few weeks were filled with questions. A month went by, and he was still there. I kept asking when he was going to leave us and mom kept saying, “Not yet.” My sisters and I were constantly in the hospital, and one day we even got to shave my dad’s head. We were amazed and excited when he told us that we could shave a Mohawk into his hair because his medicine was making him lose it anyway. It seemed like everything was going to be okay. He wasn’t at the house because he had to stay in the hospital, but it didn’t mean he was gone. Was this what he meant by not being with us?

One night, around 7 p.m., I was at home with my sisters when my mom burst through the front door.

“We need to go to the hospital!” she said in a panicked voice.

“Yay! Are we going to see Daddy?” asked my sister excitedly.

“Yes, that’s right … that’s right. We’re going to see Daddy, honey. Come on!”

We piled into my mom’s minivan and sped to the hospital. It was weird that my mom was speeding. She never sped and always got mad when drivers did it around her. We got to the hospital and raced up to my dad’s floor. Mom gathered all of us in front of her and told us that Daddy wanted to spend a little bit of time with each of us.

I was frustrated as each of my sisters went in because I could tell something was seriously wrong and I just wanted to see my dad. Finally, the door opened and my third sister walked out with mom. I quickly rushed in and my dad smiled at me from his hospital bed. The white sheets reflected the horrid fluorescent light beaming from the ceiling.

He looked at mom and said, “Can you give us a little bit of time?”

She nodded and I caught a glimpse of something in her eyes. The same sadness that I had seen from under her bed a few months ago was haunting her now. I tried to study her more in that half second but then she backed out the door and closed it, leaving us alone.

“Want to watch a movie?” my dad asked.

A movie? This was why we raced here? I thought. “Yeah sure.” I said. I walked over to the cabinet below the TV and looked through the VHS tapes. “Can we watch Hook?”

“Of course, bud,” he said.

I pushed the tape into the black VHS player under the TV and crawled in the hospital bed with my dad.

“Want to get any snacks?” he asked with a grin.

“Ice cream?”

He pushed a button on the side of his bed and a nurse rushed in. “Is everything okay?” she asked cautiously.

“My little man needs some ice cream,” he told her.

“Oh, of course,” she said with a smile. “I’ll be right back!”

I sat and waited excitedly as the movie started. I loved Peter Pan, and Hook was one of my favorite movies.

“Hey, buddy, I need to talk to you,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes.

Suddenly nothing mattered. I didn’t care about Peter Pan, or ice cream, or Zelda. All I could focus on were my dad’s sad blue eyes and his quivering lip.

“It doesn’t look like I’m going to be around very much longer. You’re about to be the man of the house and I need you to do a few things for me.”

This information was too hard to comprehend and I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.

“Okay, the first thing is, I want you to take care of your mom. She’s going to need you, and so will your sisters.” He stopped for a moment, taking a few slow breaths, and then continued. “That brings me to the second thing. Take care of your sisters. Protect them and make sure they are always okay. Can you do that?”

I nodded again.

“The third thing is most important. Are you listening? Always walk with God. Follow Him because He will never take you down the wrong path. He will teach you how to be a good man and I want you to promise me that you’ll stay with Him.”

“I promise,” I said.

“Good. Something else I want you to do is love people. No matter who it is, I want you to show God’s love to them.” He started coughing violently and it took him a minute to begin again. “Part of being a good man is learning to love people you may not like. Not everyone will want to be your friend, and that’s okay. But you need to love them all the same. Finally, I know that you don’t think so now, but one day you will really like a girl. You need to honor and respect her, okay? I love you buddy.”

All I wanted to do was ask him where he was going, but deep down I knew the answer. I just told him that I would do everything he asked.

Together we leaned back in the hospital bed, enjoying our ice cream and my favorite movie. With my sisters asleep in the waiting room, our movie came to an end, and so did my time with my dad. When Mom came in to get me it was hard to leave. She grabbed my hand as we walked out together and I turned back to see my dad in the bed smiling at me. For the first time in a while, there wasn’t sadness in his eyes. It was pride. Pride in the little boy who wouldn’t be little for long. It filled me with confidence knowing that this man had faith in who I could become.

I can’t let him down, I thought.


“No this piece goes here!” Ashtyn said.

“Oh ok. Wait, look! It says something! L … A … Kaden grab that piece,” Hailey said.

Our excitement built as my sisters and I assembled a puzzle. A scavenger hunt sent us searching all over my neighborhood for puzzle pieces in big orange envelopes and we had finally found the last one. As we completed the puzzle, we looked down at a message that read, “We’re going to Disney World!”

All of our jaws dropped and we jumped up in excitement. We turned to our parents, who were sitting behind us smiling.

“How come we’re randomly going to Disney World? We have school!” Hailey asked in amazement.

A tear rolled down my mom’s face as she looked at my dad. He was too busy smiling and looking at us to respond to Hailey and my mom nudged him. He cleared his throat for a moment and took a breath.

“It’s been five years since they found the leukemia,” he said, “And today I went in for my final checkup …”

He paused for a couple seconds as if he couldn’t believe the next words he was about to say.

“I’m cancer free.”

My sisters let out screams of joy and jumped on my dad. I sat on the floor and watched him hug each of them. He grinned and looked at me, “You know what this means Kaden? I can still be around to take you out.”

He came over and tackled me to the ground and began fake punching my stomach, which was his way of hugging me. This always started a wrestling match that he would let me win and after a few minutes I had pinned him. He jumped up and demanded we get some dinner to celebrate. Everyone was full of excitement and I was filled with happiness, knowing that he would see the man I would become.

About the Author

Kaden Sanne
I have always loved stories and realized at a pretty young age that I was very creative. I grew up in Olympia, Washington and came to WSU in 2014. I’m a sophomore and I want to advertise for tech companies and write books. My favorite writers and Stephen King and Kurt Sutter.