Reflections on Things I Learned From My Father
My father was an amazing man.
He wasn't close to perfect, but he was amazing. He lived with a permanent physical disability, one he'd gotten as a teen because his family couldn't afford to go to the doctor. He loved to point out how high his pain tolerance was because he didn't complain about his injury. He just adjusted and kept moving. I learned not to complain about my pain from him.
He was an educator and worked in the school district of the neighborhood he grew up in. He never thought her was smart, yet he became a teacher and then, while working 2 jobs, running a side business, helping raise 5 kids, running a summer program, and tutoring, he put himself through grad school so that he could do more in his community. I'd never known someone could work that hard and give so much. I hope somewhere in that he found some joy because during his time in my life, he busted his ass until there wasn't much left for himself. I learned to work myself to exhaustion and then keep going from him.
I was 19 when he was diagnosed with his first cancer. I was 23 when he was diagnosed with his 2nd cancer, and 34 when he died from his 3rd. He was 69.
He never got to live the life he dreamed of after his children were grown. He got sick too young and spent the last decade of his life managing doctor appointments, side-effects, pain, hospitalizations, and rapidly declining quality of life as he managed all these things. And because he was an amazing man, he never demanded that I come help take care of him. He was adamantly against it. "This is my life," he told me repeatedly. "You weren't born to live my life. Go live yours." I constantly realize how much of a blessing that truly was.
I miss him every day. Some days hurt less. A lot less. And I live with the guilt of having been unable to move forward the entire time he was sick. I spent 15 years doing just enough to get by and not being the woman he believed I would be. I wish I could talk to him now and show him who I've become, but emotions and humanity and growth and all that bullshit made that something that wasn't meant to be. I live with the guilt of knowing his passing freed me from a bondage I didn't understand and that who I am now is a direct result of the lessons I've learned from him.
He helped teach me compassion, empathy, and to care for my community through his actions. I've learned that I have his drive, his tolerance for pain, and his humility....and that none of those things added to his quality of life. He suffered nobly but, in the end, he hated that shit. His last lesson for me was to hate that shit, too.
Live loud. Live unapologetically. Shake shit up and change the world.
I miss you, Dad…Everyday.