Today would have been my dad’s 68th birthday. It’s still hard to believe that he is gone. He was the strongest, hardest working, most amazing father I could have ever asked for. He was a single dad in a time when that was barely heard of.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s with only a father at home always came with questions and weird looks, but I never questioned how much I was loved. He went through Hell and back to get and keep us. He was a very strong role model and always made it very clear that my brother and I could do anything we set our minds to. He was also the one that always had our backs. You don’t know how many middle of the night phone calls he received from one of us about a car issue, and he would show up blurry eyed with jumper cables or a jack. I finally repaid him in kind by getting us both AAA.
I remember my first semi-formal and him him teaching me the basic waltz box step. He took me to dance and gymnastics classes, he was there at my school plays even when he would have to split his time between my play and my brother’s band concert. He taught me to throw a spiral and the correct way to throw a punch. He taught me to pump gas and was extremely annoyed when I boycotted learning how to change a tire. Not only because he knew that there would be more late night phone calls, but because he wanted me to be a strong independent person.
When my son was born we were living with him. He had developed very severe diabetes and it had led to even more complications, like stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. There was many a time that I had to call 911 because he had fallen asleep without eating, or his potassium levels were off, but he was always there for my son and me.
One time, when my son was very small, about 3 months old I was exhausted, up in my room and Jason was just screaming. For those of you that are parents, you know this scream. The one with no answers, they just seem to like the sound of their own frustration. I was trying to feed him, walk with him, rocking him… there was nothing that I could do. The next thing I know, there is my dad walking in and taking my son from me. He just looked at me and said, “You need a nap. This isn’t doing anyone any good.” I was so relieved I’m pretty sure I started crying. My dad bounced with my son for a few seconds and made a shush sound in his ear and the boy was silent. He took him downstairs and I was able to get a couple of minutes of uninterrupted sleep.
As my son got older he loved playing with his Papa. They would do puzzles and go for walks in the woods. My dad introduced him to Doctor Who… though I love the show, I was not thrilled that my 20 month old was asking for screen time for the first time. But looking back I am glad that they had that. Five months later my father would be gone.
The morning that I found him was the worth day of my life. I still have nightmares and a giant empty gap where his talks and laughter used to fill. My father was the one person in my life that I could always count on. He was the one person in my life that I knew my son could count on other than me. Then one night he had an early dinner and forgot to have a snack before bed. His blood sugar dropped in the middle of the night and he never woke up.
As far as ways to go, I guess it wasn’t so bad for him, but for me…. it was horrific. I wasn’t even 40 years old, he was just 65, and my son had only been 2 for one month. All I kept thinking is how my son wouldn’t remember him. My father wouldn’t know the person that baby would grow into. The 2 most important males in my life would never really know each other.
My father was an amazing role model. He taught me so much. Except the correct eating habits. Had he been more careful things would have been very different. Both my brother and I were raised predominantly on fast food. My dad was young, single and a business owner. He was tired of fighting with kids about eating, so he went the easy route. Both my brother and I ended up with horrible habits, and both with weight issues up and down.
Since having my son, and since my father’s death my goal has been to become the most healthy version of myself and to raise the most healthy version of my son. I don’t want to leave him unexpectedly in the middle of the night, and I don’t want him to contend with the struggles of learning new habits later.
I have taken to Integrative Wellness and Life Coaching, because through my life and my struggles I have found that eating habits and wellness has less to do with knowing the right foods to eat or the right exercises to firm up your butt. There are 1000 books, websites, videos… top 10 lists that can educate you on that.. and let’s face it, everyone knows you should eat kale over pizza.
True Wellness in life is about having the right mind set. Wanting to be the best more healthy version of oneself for the richest most fulfilled life. Getting to know your grand kids will feel much better than eating that cake, but unless we change our priorities and our lifestyle, we’ll just be on a yo-yo of life.. with no idea when it could drop.