Warning: Sensitive material for some
It’s been eighteen years (today) since my dad died. It’s hard to even put those words together. He’s someone who hasn’t made it easy to ‘just get over.’
When you love someone so much and then lose them, it changes everything.
I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts the story of my dad, but for new blog followers and my own thought process (and anyone else) here we go….
I depended so much on my dad when I was growing up because he provided for our family, and with my mom’s epilepsy he took good care of her.
He was ridiculously talented with art and carpentry.
He ran a bit on the wild side from his teen years to his mid thirties, meanwhile taking pride in his work as a self-employed roofer, doing indoor (house) construction as well, and raising/selling bearded dragon reptiles on the side.
Eventually my dad gave up the party scene and replaced it with church. Dirt bike racing became a hobby in the summer months for my dad but since the races landed on Sundays his church attendance was put on the back-burner.
The first race season ended along with his new passion; a miscalculated double jump left him paralyzed from the neck down (quadriplegic) and ventilator dependent. He was thirty-seven at the time…only two years older than I am right now.
My dad lived in a rehab facility for the next few years (four hours away from us) where we visited him frequently. It was meant to be a temporary living condition as we were in the middle of selling our home with plans of moving and building a new home. The new house would be located in the same town as where my dad’s rehab housing was, making it easier to have access to proper health care, plus the house would be handicap capable and he would begin living full-time with us there.
Occasionally we brought my dad the fours hours home to visit for a long weekend.
His last trip home was just under two years shy of his bike racing accident. He was home for the Fourth of July celebration. He wasn’t even supposed to visit that weekend, but a falling-out with one of the staff sent him in a rage and mom came to his rescue and brought him home for a few days.
It was the morning of July 8, 2001. My mom was doing the busy tasks of caring for my paralyzed dad, and getting him packed up to go back to rehab life. During that time it was as if they’d reversed roles. My mom became more independent and was able to see just how much my dad actually needed her.
As she cleaned him, dressed him, adjusted his ventilator, and so on, he looked her in the eyes lovingly and said, “I’m so glad you’re the one taking care of me today.”
I’m so glad you’re the one taking care of me today.
None of us knew it’d be the last time.
We left later that day with me driving but after a few hours on the road I fell asleep behind the wheel.
My dad didn’t survive the accident. A blessing in disguise, really. He had also told my mom earlier that day that ‘he didn’t like living this way and didn’t want to do it anymore.’
Oh the irony.
I miss him still. A lot.
I’ve beat myself up over and over because of how selfish and naive I was during that time. I’ve wrote over and over how I was a mess as a teen. I wasn’t really present to my family and took more interest in spending time with friends…and partying.
And it makes it really hard when I consider the fact that I now have a husband and kids…and my dad’s not a part of this.
He would’ve been crazy about them.
I have to push those thoughts away though because it becomes a combination of day-dreaming and false-hope.
PART TWO to follow…with a happier ending, I promise…because I feel like I just rewrote my dad’s obituary…seriously though!!