Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life goes on...

My dad on the field at Memorial Stadium
As I write this, I am sitting in bed at my in-laws' back in Illinois.  In the silence of this big, mostly empty house I finally allow myself to think, to remember, to feel.

Last week, I dropped everything in California to rush back and be with my dad for his last moments. He had been fighting for his life in the ICU for more than two months at that point.  One complication after another.

While we were there in the hospital with him, his eyes had been open but not altogether alert.  There was one brief moment of recognition where he scrunched his eyebrows and really looked at my brother and me.  That tiny moment was worth the red-eye flight and sleep deprivation.

My heart caught in my throat every time he paused for more than a few seconds to take his next breath. I kept thinking, okay, this is it.  Then, he'd gasp, and we'd start all over again.  For a man who supposedly could only breathe for a few seconds on his own, he hung on for hours.  Stubborn to the end.  That was difficult, but that was just who he was.  He lived his life on his own terms, and he was sure as hell not going to leave this world 'til he was good and ready.

His funeral will be equally as challenging tomorrow.  It falls on the eighth anniversary of a horrific car accident which left him a quadriplegic and irrevocably changed all of our lives forever.  Even now I feel guilty that I have always been thankful for that blessing in disguise.

My dad was not always the most present in our lives growing up, especially after our parents divorced.  I wasn't involved in many group activities, but I was in band for eight years.  My senior year, I was in two concert bands, pep band, marching band, a TA for the band directors, and I even helped with the spring musical.  My dad attended exactly zero concerts, competitions, or other performances.  My brothers could probably tell you similar stories of a childhood riddled with disappointment.

I know that we're not supposed to speak ill and whatnot, but I will not pretend he was father of the year.  He just wasn't.  I will say that part of the reason I am thankful for everything that happened after his accident is that it changed us.  He became more involved, and we let him in.  Whenever anything exciting happened in my life, my dad became one of the first people I would call.  Something I never thought would happen growing up.  And, he would constantly call just to check in.  He was there for my college graduations, my wedding day -- proud as he could be.
Showing off my engagement ring to my dad
just hours after David popped the question.
He became an icon of perseverance to me.  As I struggled to make something of myself in the world, he fought setback after setback in his medical treatment.  I looked to him for strength and hoped that unwavering determination would rub off a little.  He never let anyone tell him he couldn't do something (sometimes to a fault).  And, I wanted even just a fraction of that confidence in my own life decisions.

That's part of the reason I started this blog.  I wanted to experience more of the world once I became painfully aware of just how short our time here can be.  The blog actually celebrates its two year anniversary this week, and I know that would make my dad smile.  He was always so supportive of this endeavor.

Likewise, my four year wedding anniversary falls on Thursday.  I think my dad was always glad that I had David in my life.  So although this upcoming Father's Day weekend is going to be a rough one, I feel reassured that my dad has instilled in me many of those qualities I admired so much in him.  It is his strength, perseverance, confidence, and stubbornness that will get me through this week.
David with my dad on our wedding day.

Because life goes on whether we're ready or not.

This past Christmas at Dad's house.
(Pictured: David, me, Josh, Matt, and Dad)

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