When I left for college, my dad left our home as well. He went to take the adventures that he had always read about, cooped up in our small town for more than 20 years and his whole childhood before that. This leaving was so painful to me because my younger sister was still at home and I knew first hand how much a girl needs her dad but at the same time, I did understand the need to go. That wanderlust grew in both of our souls. I recognized it.
Over the years this has caused pain and joy and struggle for our family. It has left me often disconnected from my dad at times I needed him most but it has also brought my Ena, my Alaskan native mother, and her daughter, my youngest sister. You might notice, I don't say "stepmother" or "stepsister." I feel that in our language, these often have a pretty negative connotation and they don't match up with my view of family in the first place. I have been blessed with so many loved ones and I don't think that family is about tiers and rankings, I think it is about love and sacrifice and memories and togetherness.
During the time that I was in the hospital for the first time, fighting for my life, struggling to eat through a feeding tube, learning to walk again, my dad was nowhere to be found. He texted Nick every day to find out how I was doing but he was never there to hold my hand to help me through and for a long time I held a lot of pain and anger and confusion in my heart about that fact.
We later learned that he was in fact struggling in a similar way, in a hospital several thousand miles south of ours. My dad has the same genetic blood clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden, that I do and so he often experiences clots in his legs and lungs and the severe complications arising from those terrible clots. They have stolen his youth and and stolen many moments that he'll never be able to get back. Being there for me in the hospital was one of those moments.
That's the painful reality of chronic illness, of blood disorders, and for me autoimmune disease, they steal moments from you that you can never, ever, get back. I can't tell you the pain of that. It often hurst more than the physical pain of scar tissue, of bleeding ulcers in your digestive organs, of anything you can imagine because this is the truth of life; the mental and emotional pain we suffer is always greater than the physical. The memories we miss will hurt more than stitches or surgeries. I know, I missed out on the birth of my niece, the first born baby on either side of the family. I missed out on being there for her first words, her first steps, I missed out on being there for my friends and family, I had to sacrifice the career that I loved, and I will never be able to get those memories back. But this is the truth; we cannot go backwards, we can only look forwards at the memories we CAN make, at the ones we are making now. I was there for my sister's graduation from high school, I held her and hugged her and cried tears of joy not just to be there but to be alive and able to hug her, congratulate her, hold her. I was there to see two childhood friends marry the loves of their lives. I sacrificed and struggled through pain and infection and danger to have those memories and they will always be with me.
So now, as I recover and my dad recovers too, we have begun to find each other again. He reads my blog daily and offers support. He texts and calls and sends pictures of my older sister, and my family, and updates on the ones I love. And two days ago, when another family member tried to shame me into giving up my work here on this blog, he sent me this message.
I hope today that no matter what your relationship looks like with the dad or dads or the male role models in your life that you take a moment to let forgiveness or love or memories or even a hug wash over you. And dads, remember that it is true, no matter how old she may be, a girl always needs her dad.
Lots of Love,