Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remembering Daddy

My father was diagnosed with MS when I was 1 year old. He had been sick for many years before his diagnosis. While the diagnosis was depressing, it was a relief after various specialists had found nothing wrong with him and psychiatrist's had reported that it was all psychosomatic. He was able to work full time for about 5 years after that from what I remember. By that time he was almost completely blind, wheelchair bound and his speech had become slurred.

Instead of wallowing in self pity, my father took this time to become more active in my life. He always volunteered to be a chaperon on my school field trips. I distinctly remember my father telling stories to my class to keep us all quiet while we were waiting to leave. Because he couldn't see, he made up stories with a central character named Oscar. Looking back on things now I think the Oscar stories were partly based on experiences from his childhood and partly his fantastic imagination of things he wished he could experience. I attended a small private school so all the families knew each other. My father became something of a local celebrity. The teachers always counted on him to come on field trips and keep the class entertained during down moments. At that time he was able to get around with a cane or walker so getting him on and off the school bus wasn't that difficult.

As I got older and my father's disease progressed, he was no longer able to come on school trips but he still came to all my school plays and events. One of my favorite memories was going to the YMCA with my father for his aquatic therapy. When he was in the water his joints worked and he could walk for short distances. It filled him with so much joy. We went twice a week and it was one of the happiest times in my life.

My brother was born when I was 5. Unfortunately by the time he was 3 my father's illness had progressed to the point that he was no longer able to be as active as he had been with me. I was sad knowing that my brother would never have the experiences that I had. I did my best to do for my brother what my father had done for me but I know it wasn't the same.

My father was always a very devout Catholic. He went to Catholic school from nursery school through college. When it became difficult for him to go to mass, the Fathers would come to our house once a week for communion. I always struggled with Catholicism but I was very devoted to my father. I would read him passages from the Daily Word every morning before I went to school. When I got older and started going through my father's books I realized that he was fascinated with eastern religions, in particular Hinduism and the idea of reincarnation. I had always though that reincarnation must exist because it wouldn't be fair for people to suffer horrible tragedies in one life and never get the opportunity experience true happiness. Finding those books helped me understand my father's upbeat attitude. Yes, he strictly adhered to Catholic beliefs and truly felt that there was a reason that God had dealt him such a difficult life, but, at the same time, he found hope in reincarnation and the possibility of having another chance to lead a different life.

When I was 21 my father died from complications from MS. The hospital called the house just after 11 pm on Wednesday June 18, 1998. Father's Day was that Sunday. The gift and the card I had sent him from college arrived three days after he died. I was at peace when he died because I knew that his suffering had ended and that his new life might be reborn some time in the future. Every Father's Day has a special meaning for me since it is also the anniversary of my father's death. Sometimes I cry as I pour through old photo albums and books of his. Other times I dance and act silly because he would of loved that. But I always honor him and remember all the joy that he brought to me life. It wasn't always easy having a disabled father but I am proud that it was my life. I love you Daddy.


  1. That is a beautiful tribute and I am sure he would be proud.


  2. Great blog, your father sounds like a great person, when I was little my father had a brain tumor, he was a workoholic but after the operations he became a more relaxed and happier person, is impressive how those experiences sometimes change the view people have in life and make them realize what life is for.
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