This is a plaque, a quote from Winston Churchill, that I made out of a card that my father had on his wall for many years.
On March 5, 2012 my father passed away suddenly. He was 60 years old.
To say that my relationship with my father was not perfect would be a serious understatement.
My dad and I were very much alike. Dedicated, determined and stubborn. Too much alike to gracefully weather all that had happened in the more recent years, but there was a time when we just sort of understood each other. We would laugh and fight and makeup all in a few hours. It drove my mom crazy! My dad was a salesman, and a good one at that. Even in his later years, he could still be very charming and fun to visit for limited amounts of time, especially with strangers or acquaintances; people he did not feel he had let down.
When I was in sixth grade, my father was diagnosed with a condition that rarely occurs in adulthood without serious head trauma. He had brain surgery and life seemed (at least to me) to continue on for our family until I was a senior in high school and he endured a serious of 3 more neurosurgeries in less than a week. The brain damage took its toll. Looking back, it was the beginning of the end.
The brain is such a complex organ. I am not a neurosurgeon, but I think I have paid enough dues to be able to say that sometimes they can save you beyond when they should. And you just cannot poke around in the brain 19 times in a lifetime without there being irreversible damage. The family is left to deal with a person who is completely different then their loved one. The family has to try and be rational with a person who has lost the ability to be rational. The patient is left to deal with what I can only imagine is like stepping into someone else’s life and trying to make it your own. It was really, really hard for my dad, but also for my mom, my brother and me.
My father did not appreciate that his loved ones were determined to make sure he was taken care of – he wanted to do whatever he wanted, consequences be damned. Somehow we managed to get him into assisted living, and we found a new sort of normal over the past couple of years. Recently, after suffering from an ulcer, he started cooking using his microwave. He was very cute, marking the pages in some microwave cookbooks and updating me on his meal plans. The last time I saw him, I told him I was proud of him. I will forever be grateful that I did.
Even though my relationship with my father was at times deeply painful and sad, I always admired his determination to live his life despite intense head pain that plagued him most of his adult life. Having faced death on several occasions, he just kept carrying on. You have to admire someone who can continue to put one foot in front of the other despite great odds. I recognize that what he went been through and knowing all he had lost had to be so, so painful.
Maybe you have a good relationship with your father. Maybe not. Maybe my story speaks to you about someone else in your life. In any case, just make sure that you have done everything you can to make the most of the relationship, however imperfect that maybe. Time really can run out.
If my dad’s story speaks of your own journey, whether you face a battle with deep debt, physical aliments, disabilities or the like, do like Dad and Winston Churchill. Never, never, never give up. Keep trying, keep plugging away, adjusting as needed, but moving forward.
Goodbye, Dad. Even though some of the lessons you have taught me have been hard to take, I am a better person for making it through. And I would have chosen this path over not having ever known you at all. You will always remain in my mind as an example of courage and I will be sure to pass your legacy onto my kids.
May you rest in peace, at long last.