Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Daddy's Girl

I've grown to have such mixed feelings over that phrase.

I'm sure you've noticed the lack of activity going on here. It's been a difficult month. There's an even more difficult battle in my heart on what to share with the world. As a professional writer, I constantly broadcast the stories of people I don't even know. However anyone could tell you it's quite different when it comes to publicizing your own personal life... much less that of a loved one. But the more I think about it, the more I want to share my love for my family. And I can only hope those involved understand.

With that being said, many of you know that I am an only child. I now have two great step-siblings, but for the first 10+ years of my life, it was just me, my Mom, and my Dad. Just us three. I don't remember too much of my childhood, but from what I can recall, I thought life was pretty perfect. So, you know, I was a typical spoiled brat who thought our family was perfect the way it was.
My Father & I in pure 90's fashion
Most of the memories I do have is thanks to literally books filled with photos that my Mother still has at home. There's moments caught in time of our numerous family vacations, school events, and other entertaining outings. These pristine photos of us smiling and laughing instill this child-like print on my heart that I thought our family was, and would remain, perfectly intact.
"Hello, Snowface!"
Like most children though, I really didn't understand the world. Honestly, I still don't understand everything, including my parent's divorce. It's been about 15 years since my parents told me they would be separated and it is still a pretty sore subject. There's been a lot of hurtful words and actions during those years. Most of it coming from me never really adjusting to the fact my parents "grew apart." I somehow convinced myself that my Father left me & Mom... and wanted nothing to do with me.

Looking back & hearing stories of my teen years helped me realize that fact was entirely a figment of my imagination. I had a lot of uncalled for anger towards my Dad. Especially after he remarried & took in a girl my age into his home. I care a lot about my step mother and sister, but let's face it, I was incredibly jealous. I was also self-centered. I can't recall all the occasions where I claimed my Dad disowned me, but it was incorrect and an inappropriate attack towards a man who tried his best to care for his family the best he could.

 That appears to be a recurring theme as I grew older. Between that and a few other issues, I became very bitter and built a wall to cut off anyone who cared for me. It took meeting my future husband to really tackle all my burdens. After that I began an attempt to patch things up with my Dad. I tried to "prove" my worth to my parents through accomplishments. I cannot tell you how many times my parents told me how proud they were of me, but it was never enough. It never secured some loose ends that appeared to never go away.
Dad & me at my college graduation in 2008.
I want to say there were several occasions as a child and adult where Dad wasn't there when I thought I needed him. It was mostly school games and events when I was younger and postponed outings when I was an adult. Of course he had just reasons being either his work or his health. The inner only child in me however would throw a ridiculous tantrum as I logically attempted to find some kind of resolution. I have a small problem of self-analyzing my "issues," especially when it comes to my relationship with Dad. The only solution I could find back then was to be distant. So there's been a few years where I really didn't work to stay connected with my Dad. There would be months of no connection. I withdrew and stopped trying. And that's what close friends see these days.
My Aunt, Father, Grandmother & Me. We only saw each other 2-3 times a year.
But that recently changed. Last month I noticed I had not spoken with Dad in a few weeks. It's nothing new, so I just shrugged it off for a couple days. But then I received an early morning message from an old friend who is now a nurse at my hometown hospital. It stated Dad was in the hospital with pneumonia. At first I didn't think too much of it. He's had a few health issues in recent years and he's in good hands. However I then called him and his voice indicated that this isn't a normal situation. I also found out that he was incredibly anemic. So this month-long ordeal began with me taking a quick trip to my hometown. I had no idea that it would be the start of more emergency trips to come.

A very long story short, we eventually found out that Dad had acute myeloid leukemia also known as AML. That made it incredibly difficult for his body to fight off his infection. He was eventually given a breathing tube and placed in a medically induced coma. During that time he had quite a few complications and had some critical moments. There was even a night we didn't know if he would make it. Thankfully by this time he was in a hospital in Chicago and had amazing care. And he fought. Sure he was in a deep slumber, but he fought tooth and nail to get better. Slowly the machines keeping him alive could be removed. First a nitric oxide machine... then a few IV's... then one of our biggest moments: the ventilator. We were nervous at first. They tried removing the breathing tube before and it did not go well. But this time we took our time & he received some extra medications. He's now been strongly breathing on his own for five days! He's getting healthier too. We now await for him to "wake up" from his medically induced coma. Since he was down for about two weeks, it's taking a long time for the sedatives to get out of his system. But I'm writing this on the day a nurse tells me that he's starting to follow simple commands! He will soon receive treatment needed to remove the AML. His doctors sound very confident that he will soon be in remission!

This whole ordeal taught us to take small steps and celebrate what we are given. It's also gotten me to really think about my relationship with my Father. I took three sudden trips to see him in three different hospitals. During those times I stayed as long as I could. I held his hand, spoke with him, sang to him, and rubbed lotion on his hands. My Dad may not have done much during these visits, but those long hours allowed him to break down the walls I built to keep him out of my heart. My family also helped me realize how important I am to him. I don't know why it took all of this to have those words finally sink in: "my Dad loves me." And that love is absolute. It may not be the glamorous relationship you see in the movies, but I adore my Father and I mean the world to him. I'm a Daddy's girl in my own way.

I also discovered my own faults. My Dad never left me but I pushed him away again and again. For so long I wanted him to accept me but I never accepted his way of showing he loved me. I'll admit there was a moment I cried, begging for him to forgive me & for God to allow me to repair the mess I've caused. Thankfully it appears I will have more time with my Superman of a Father.

Dad, this photo is in hope that you not only beat that nasty AML, but you'll be well enough to read this soon. I love you so much. I cannot wait for you to heal & playfully (I hope) scold me for writing this.

If you'd like to keep up with my Father's progress or sign the guestbook for him & my family, here's a link to his caring bridge page.

1 comment:

  1. This was very well done. Such an open and honest piece doesn't always come easy, but it can be very therapeutic.

    I don't want to ramble about myself, and I don't claim to fully understand what you're going through, but I know what it's like to have lost my father far too soon. We lost him to brain cancer in late 2010, only three months to the day after he first felt symptoms. He was our family's rock, and I took it very hard. To complicate things more, I lost another five relatives in the next eight months. It was during this time, which coincided with my first year in grad school, that I gained a completely different outlook on life. It's only been in the past 2.5 years that I've really begun to appreciate the power of family. They've always been there for me, I was just too immature and "manly" to return that emotional investment. I would not trade that group of people I call family for anything, ever. As for those who have passed on, I know they're all in a better place. There have been vivid, unforgettable dreams that felt far too real and powerful to simply be imagination. My mother, and even my wife, had similar dreams. Call me crazy, but I believe there was something to them.

    I hate to say it, but sometimes it takes an unfortunate turn of events to see what's really important and, in the long run, get into a better mindset. I, too, would self-analyze everything to the point where I felt like I would explode. Then all these events happened, and I noticed all the little things that were blown up in my head over the years. I like to think I have better priorities now than I did even three years ago.

    Again, I apologize for ranting about myself, but I read this and my experiences came flooding back and got me thinking. It's not always easy, but you will make it if I did. I'm happy to hear you and your father could have more time together. I wish you both the best.