It Was My Dad Who Showed Me How To Be Strong

It Was My Dad Who Showed Me How To Be Strong

How my viewpoint of being "strong" changed.

My dad has always been my best friend, even when I was little. Now the school has never been my strong suit, especially when you have every single learning disability that exists on the planet, it's definitely harder. What I did not know was that my dad was the exact same way when he was growing up.

For years my dad would encourage me to keep trying even when I wanted to give up. I remember one time my dad was in charge of me getting my permit. Now the permit test in Georgia might be the hardest test you will ever have to take, seriously. You actually have to study and I don't mean just skim through and say a few keywords and tell your self you can pass, cause you won't. Now I'm not embarrassed to tell you that I failed the permit test THREE times, but every time I failed my dad knew how to make me feel better.

Whether it was driving me to get Chick-fil-A or blaring Old rock music and pretending to know the words, it always worked. A few years ago my dad became quite ill, which made him physically weak and spending long days and nights for months in the hospital. What most people don't understand is that when this was going on, this showed me how strong he is and how strong I can be.

Being ill and having to change your whole lifestyle in a year is extremely hard, and most people would just give up and call it a day. Yet, my dad never gave up, I could tell he was hurting and wanted to be able to play golf with his buddies or even just drive two minutes to Publix.

So, my dad and I changed roles, I became him and he became me.

What I mean is that I kept encouraging him to keep going on, even on the worst days in the hospital. When my dad was able to come home for good, was the day that I knew my dad was the strongest person. Even today, my dad has so many struggles yet he never gives up. My dad showed me how to be strong. To never give up on something you want, or know you need to do. To make hard decisions into a fun game, or to talk it out. My dad is my role model for one simple reason: he is strong.

Cover Image Credit: Forsyth Latham

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Hard Times Work Out For The Better

I've learned to let go of the unimportant things in life and hold on to the better.

Some days overcoming difficult times in life seem impossible. When one thing goes wrong, it always has one hundred other things to follow. Life seems unfair at times, but really the hard times in our life is what shapes the person we are today. Learning from my past struggles and hardships have made me become the best me I can be.

One of the most difficult times in my life was when my parents got a divorce. I remember I was in fourth grade when my mom sat me down and told me that my dad wouldn't be living with us anymore. At the time I didn't really understand, however later in life was when it got harder. Little did I know that difficult times are only temporary.

Those times were hard for me because I wanted my parents to be together and I wanted things to go back to the way they used to. I didn't see my dad as much which was a big change for me and it would hit me hard sometimes. I wouldn't wish a divorce upon anyone, but looking back at the difficult time, I honestly wouldn't change a thing.

I learned so much from that experience and it shaped who I am today.

Learning to live with divorced parents isn't easy at first, but I got used to it. I learned to not only live without two parents but also learned to love both of my parents equally. It's not about getting more presents during Christmas or getting more birthday money. I've learned it about realizing that there are two wonderful people that love me for who I am.

Not only have I realized how unconditionally they love me, but how much my sisters mean to me as well. Wow. Never thought I would say that. Although my sisters and I fight like cats and dogs, we have become very close during the hard times we have experienced together. Thinking about the days we had to share a room makes me laugh and cherish those memories. I wouldn't have wanted to go through that with anyone else.

I also learned that people make mistakes. I understand that no one is perfect and some things just don't work out. I've learned to accept change and adjust the best I can.

From moving multiple times, I've learned to let go of the unimportant things in life and hold on to the better.

I've learned how to become independent and accomplish many things by myself. Relying on someone else to do everything only backfires in the long run when that person is no longer there.

This is not an article by any means to get people to feel sorry or pity for me, but to know that whether it is divorce or any will only make you stronger! I am thankful for the hardships I have overcome along with the many life lessons they have taught me.

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Yes, I Believe In Miracles

My father was dying and there was nothing I could do but sit back and wait.

On December 25, 2017, I received one of the worst phone calls a kid could get. Instantly, Christmas was no longer a day of happiness, love, and giving. It was instead a day full of tears, frightening thoughts, and not an ounce of sleep.

On Christmas Eve, my father, my siblings, and I had celebrated together at my aunt and uncle's house in Waterloo, IA. We had a great evening — we ate homemade chicken noodle soup and played many games together. My siblings and I were staying overnight to leave early in the morning to head to another Christmas celebration.

My father drove home around 10:30 pm, and even though he doesn't remember it now, he had a great conversation with me over the phone shortly after leaving his sister's house. The last words we exchanged were, "I love you."

At 2:36 am, my siblings and I received a call saying, "Your dad has had a massive heart attack, and was life-flighted to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines."

Of course, instantly our lives changed. We drove the gruesome two-hour drive in silence, as it was very unclear whether our father was going to survive. Not many details were known at the time — just that it was really, really bad.

Around 4:30 am, we arrived at Mercy Hospital to find my father in the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit). To see my father wrapped in cords with multiple tubes coming out from all over was the most horrifying image to see.

I had one too many emotions, and as a person who hates crying in front of groups of people, I found myself wandering down the hallway. I stood there, staring at this poster, which I can't even write in detail about, because I have no memory of what was on it.

I stared for several minutes before breaking down. There was nothing anyone could have done or said that would have taken this feeling away from me. My father was dying and there was nothing I could do but sit back and wait.

I wandered the hospital while the rest of my family sat in the waiting room, surrounding each other with love and hope. While wandering, I came across a big picture window where I spent many days thereafter, looking out and watching life continue outside, while life felt stuck and scary inside.

When I came across this big picture window for the first time that very first morning at Mercy, roughly two hours after seeing my father lay unresponsive, I saw the beautiful sunrise you see below.

My breath was taken away at this beautiful sunrise, and for the first time since before falling asleep on Christmas Eve, I felt hopeful.

I then sat there for several hours, calling each one of my friends individually and listening to their kind words as more tears fell down my already tear-stained face.

I watched as families passed by me and I sat wondering if they were feeling the same way I was: broken, scared, unfamiliar with such tragedy. My family has lost relatives over the years — times in which I was sad and struggling — but those losses would be nothing compared to losing a father.

I've never been extremely close with my father; I'm definitely a momma's girl. The life my father lives is different than I want him to live it. He is a smoker and his other interests are very different than mine, causing us to not always have much in common. My whole life, I've been slightly more separated from him than my siblings, which has become more noticeable as I've grown older.

Knowing all of this, the regret and fear that came with the first day was unbearable. My father knows I love him, as I know he loves me. We just have different ways of communicating it. At the time, I was convinced my father was going to die without knowing.

I spent almost every minute by my dad's side, and when I wasn't near him, I felt sad, sick, and as if I was letting him down. I read to my father multiple times when he was in his coma, as it is commonly heard that letting a patient hear a loved one's voice brings them closer to consciousness.

My father had his heart attack shortly after 12:30 am on Christmas Day; 911 was alerted and help arrived within two minutes. They began chest compressions and continued to do so for 55 minutes. My father was gone for 55 minutes, with not much hope of coming back. He was shocked 11 times total —once by police, nine times by EMTs, and twice by the ER.

On the last shock, it was said that one more shock was going to be given, and if no pulse was detected, time of death would be called.

And on that last shock, he was revived. He was then life-flighted to Mercy Hospital and taken to the Cath lab, where they put a stent in to fix the 100% blockage in the main artery, or what is called the "WidowMaker." One in ten survive and return home living life as they had prior to the attack.

During the next few hours of the first day, many emotions emerged. My father responded to commands such as squeezing the nurses' hands and moving his toes, something they've never seen before when an attack this bad has occurred.

Of course, our family was overjoyed! But sadly, the possibility for my father to have neurological issues remained. And as awful as you can imagine, my sister and I were of age to be the 'next of kin', meaning we would be the two to decide what to do if my father was brain-dead. It was absolutely terrifying.

My family did not leave the hospital until close to 2 am the first day and arrived back at the hospital around 8:45 am the following day. This continued for over a week.

Each day we received better news — exciting, hopeful news. By Tuesday, they had completely shut off his cooling machine and many of my father's friends had come to visit and share their positive thoughts.

Over the course of the week I, as well as my family members, received many messages containing funny stories of him as a kid, kind words, and several simply asking to visit.

By Wednesday, we were waiting for the nurses to approve him for the removal of the breathing tubes. However, sadly, my father became too agitated and fought the nurses too hard for them to take it out. They decided to give him one more day of a medically-induced coma — making it his fourth day in a row — and try again on Thursday.

On Thursday, the nurses approved him and the tube came out. Finally, after almost five days of seeing my father hooked up to tubes and in a coma, it was more than amazing to see my father wake up and communicate with his family. I never imagined myself saying this of my enthusiastic, broadcasting father, but... I seriously missed that booming voice.

Six days later, he was released from Mercy Hospital with no further diagnosis. His brain was perfectly fine, despite what he was put through. My family, the doctors, the nurses, and all of his friends are calling his journey a "Christmas Miracle."

I've never been one to fully believe in miracles, as I've seen horrible and tragic events happen to so many kind and caring families. Sometimes life is completely unfair to those we love. But there's no way I could say that I don't believe now. I watched as my dying father beat the odds and come back for a second go at life. So, yes, I believe in miracles...because my father is one.

To my father,

Give this second shot at life your all. Speak kinder. Love deeper. Keep the faith. Believe in God. Cheer as loud as you want. Hold loved ones tighter. Do everything as if it is your last time doing so because it almost was. The three of us kids love you so very much and I trust that you'll do what you need to give this second chance everything you have. We'll be there every step of the way.

Cover Image Credit: Maggie Fitzpatrick

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