I often look back and trace the steps that have led me to the person I am today. I try to learn from the triumphs and failures, successes and short comings. But I have realized, as I dig through the mass of memories, certain ones jump to the foreground. I don’t understand why the moments that hurt us, and the days that challenge us, are the memories that visit us the most often.
I remember being 16. My parents were recently divorced and I was a freshman in high school. I lived with my dad, in the house I had spent my entire life in. I was home alone after school, my sisters in college and my dad at work. My dad walked in the front door, home early, with a coworker. He asked me to come into his room. He calmly explained to me he had Hepatitis C, contracted over 20 years previous, and needed to go to the hospital. He was losing his battle he had kept secret from me my entire life. His voice was strong, but it was the first time I had ever seen fear in his eyes.
Three months had past. He had been giving himself chemotherapy shots in the stomach every Friday night at 7:00pm. I had been by his side for each one. I had watched him lose nearly 50 pounds, his skin become ghostly white, and his mobility dwindle to match his now petite frame. On a Friday in December he looked at me and told me to get out of the house. “Go do something with your friends.”
I reluctantly walked out the front door. I drove to my high school and watched the second half of our boys’ basketball game with friends. As the clock expired I was settled on returning home, but with a little persuasion from others, went to a friend’s house to relax. We sat around and talked about school, girls, and sports. No one asked how my dad was doing, I assume fearing my answer. I sipped on a hot beer that my friend had taken from his dad and escaped from my thoughts for a few hours. Shortly after midnight I said my goodbyes and started to drive, relieved to go home.
The front door was unlocked, like usual, and I walked into the living room to tell my dad about my night. He was sitting slightly slumped over, eyes closed. I raised my voice and announced my return hoping to wake him. No movement. Adrenaline overtook my body and in one bound I was on my knees in front of his motionless body. I grabbed his right shoulder and shook him and yelled. No response. I could feel the hot tears on my cheeks, cold from the December air. At that moment my dad raised his head slightly, opened his eyes, and welcomed me home with a smile. I wiped the tears away before he could notice them, and gleefully told him I was home. I picked up his fragile body and carried him to bed and kissed him good night.
I have never told my dad that story. Nor do I plan to. Until now it had been my story. Years since, my dad’s health has improved and nights like those are memories. Those months changed my life, and that night change the person I was and am today. The most painful moments in our past resonate in our memories of the future and make us stronger. I believe that hope is everywhere; you just have to find it.
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