As I sit in the waiting room of a sterile environment that smells of throat spray, I'm forced to recognize the past ten years. I'm waiting for my father to finish getting an MRI on his back so he can proceed to get a spinal stimulator. His pain and discomfort that has been a burden on his body since the young age of 36 will finally be put in its casket.
I must write a disclaimer: my father has not always been physically disabled. In August of 2006 my father was in an unfortunate ATV accident which caused him to break his back among many other bones. Rods and plates were put into his back to hold his bones together and since then he has been on a constant rift of pain.
Prior to my father's accident, he was a large part of an aerospace engineering company which caused long hours, long moves, and minimal daddy-daughter-time. Don't get me wrong, he still made time to see us between commuting and sixteen hour days. He was athletic, happy, and successful.
After The Accident, we moved from Wyoming back to New Hampshire to live with his mother. From then on, my life was different and so was my dad.
My dad has gone through a series of surgeries and sacrifices to hold the family together. Seeing that impacted me and grew my caring nature. He would always bring home the plungers from needles that were used for his IVs for me to play with. This impacted my career goals later in life. I'd sticker them to my unicorn, Jay (my father's name, bought when he would travel so I wouldn't get lonely), and pretend to be a nurse. He and I had always been close, "daddy's girl" and all.
He had always taught me to be respectful and mannered. None of that has changed, but I've recognized the importance of being mannered.
As stated before, my dad's back is made up of titanium rods and plates and you cannot physically see that he is disabled. On several occasions strangers have asked "what's your handicap?" when we parked.
1.) It's none of your business
2.) There are handicap plates and he has a cane.
3.) Again, none of your damn business.
I've learned the importance of patience. His movements can be slow, his frustration can be high in himself. I have to take a step back instead of insisting on nagging. His needs are important and if it takes longer for him to put his shoes on than me, I have no where to be. Timing is important just in case it takes longer.
Never react automatically on emotion. I, a teenage girl, am a professional at over-reacting to situations and going-over-the-top in thinking when something inconvenient happens. My dad's pain can be unbearable and at times, as we've all been guilty of, it causes him to be snappy. It's not my fault and instead of crying or taking it personally, I've realized taking a step back and analyzing any situation is more important than fighting back (unless it's worth it).
I appreciate my health and being stable enough to function. Imagine you're hungry and everything is below your waist. You could simply bend over to pick it up, correct? You can't with a broken back. I mean you can, but are the consequences of agonizing pain worth it? You think "I can always just pop a pill later and lay down," but how many pills can your insurance issue to you per month? Can you afford the co-pay? So you decide not to eat because no one is around to help. Health is important and everything we can to to protect our bodies from terminal injuries means something.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a princess which, sadly, you have to be born into (someone help me pull a The Princess Diaries while making me look like Anne Hathaway. Thanks). I then wanted to be a veterinarian which requires science, math, and a high enough GPA that people will assume you know what you're talking about. I contemplated being a rock star like Hannah Montana. Sadly, again, I have no talent. In the past year, I considered being a nurse. As stated before, I had my deflated unicorn that made me rethink my career. I'm a Certified Nurse's Assistant because I grew up releasing that nurturing nature on my dad. If my dad is reading this, he can tell you I nag him with this itinerary of questions:
"Hi! How'd you sleep?" "Are you okay?" "Did you sleep well?" "Is there anything I can get you?" "Are you sure?" "Promise?" "Okay love you! If you need anything you know where I am."
"Are you ready for your rest?" "Have you had lunch?" "Can I get you anything?" "Need a pill?" "You know where I am!"
"Are you going to sleep okay?" "Do you need anything more?" "Can I get you an extra pillow?" "You know where I am!"
I learned to take nothing for granted. Whether it's my health or that there's food in the house or that we can afford Christmas, it is perfect for what we can achieve for now. I used to take everything when I was younger as something I needed anyway. I thought people and my possessions were always going to be there and as I grew, I realized that none of that is true. You work hard for what you want. Everything is temporary and although it is, cherishing it will benefit myself in the future.
My dad has always been my biggest supporter whether it's running last in basketball or never being put on the field in field hockey. I've put my dad through some emotional hell because not only is he the man that helped create me, he's my therapist when I can't trust anyone. He cares about me more than any man ever could. When we have a disagreement it's always resolved with an "I love you." When times are tough and the tears he refuses to shower the floor with are restrained for the sake of my concern, I know he is doing it for me. For my brother. For my mother. He hasn't just changed me because he is home due to his disability. He has changed me because when shit hit the fan and he was hurt permanently, he changed. He is resilient and he has taught me how to be, too. He is strong (although he can barely withhold an hour long trip to the store). He is reasonable and protective. He learned to recover emotionally from The Accident and my God is that the hardest trauma to push someone through. When I broke my shoulder in a car accident, I had emotional outbursts and post-traumatic stress for two months. He was there to talk it through and I have no idea where I'd be if it left me disabled.
I have been more forgiving.
I have been more grounded.
I have been more appreciative.
I have been more understanding.
I have learned that even when the going gets tough, I am healthy.
I have learned that there is always more than meets the eye.
Thanks, Dad. Not for doing "what a dad should be doing," but for making me a better person.