As of December 30th, 2014 my father has been gone for twelve years.
He died on my birthday, surrounded by his children, their spouses and his wife.
My relationship with my father was as complicated as his passing.
In reality I lost him twice.
One hot Sunday morning In the summer of 1983 my father fell victim to a massive brain stem stroke.
I was twelve years old and my mother and I were with him.
We were in a train station in Boston.
My mother pleaded with him to go the the hospital but he refused.
He was 6’4”, wore size fourteen shoes and had hands the size of small dogs.
A powerful force of a man, who had enjoyed a twenty two year career as a Chief in the United States Navy.
In the flash of a moment this man who often ended conversations with the military phrase “end of report” and ruled his family with an iron fist, found himself having to learn to walk, speak, eat and even breathe as though it was his first time.
All of this in light of doctors repeatedly saying that he would never walk, talk or breathe without a vent again.
Within a year of the stroke he:
walked with crutches,
and while he lived the rest of his life with a tracheostomy hole in his throat that would forever cause coughing fits and embarrassment, he breathed on his own.
Dad never drove again.
He never worked again and almost never left the house.
For over twenty years he moved from his bed to the living room, to the bathroom and back to his bed.
He was wildly dependent on my mother, visiting nurses and his family.
While I would have never wished the stroke on my father, his new found disabilities unquestionably created much of the space that I needed to become who I was meant to be.
It also created a safe place to ask him questions about his inner world story that lead him to treating us the way he did before he had gotten ill.
In the years leading up to his death I was able to have every conversation with him that I needed.
He answered my questions like someone who had been eagerly waiting to be asked.
Do I wish he had volunteered some of the information instead of requiring me to go fishing for it?
At the time yes.
I can now say that requiring me to ask difficult questions and initiate conversations that would be considered by most to be at very least, uncomfortable is part of what makes me a good life coach.
Days before his death he suffered a heart attack.
The emergency room was slammed.
His feet were uncovered and he was cold and thirsty.
Ignoring the “staff only signs” I got him a blanket, made sure he had food and ice chips.
My father was not the kind of dad who took you outside to throw the ball around.
There are many dark parts of our story with him that I do talk about, but his post is not about that.
The most valuable things my father taught me are centered around doing what people say can’t be done and taking initiative to care when care is required.
Sometimes we show love by playing catch, giving a thoughtful gift, writing a note or taking our special someone out for a romantic dinner.
Sometimes we display love by rushing someone to the hospital at 2:30 AM to have the cuff on their tracheostomy replaced.
Sometimes we are loved accidentally in ways we don’t recognize by people who don’t know how right they are in applying what we actually need.
My father gave me what I actually needed.
Took some time to see it…