I Believe I Have Been Changed for Good

Sandra - Westford, Massachusetts
Entered on February 2, 2012
Themes: family

My parents followed me to the Cape. My husband and I bought a beach house in Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod. Within a month of this purchase my parents, after living in New Hampshire for some 40 years, moved close by. When responding to questions about this sudden, life-changing event, my father said to me, “You’ve changed our lives in more ways than you could ever know.” At times in the past if he had told me this I wouldn’t have known if this was positive or negative, but from the soft and subtle tone in his voice I knew…this was good!

We’ve had a difficult relationship, my father and I. He was raised in the 50s, and out of that came certain guiding principles of family life and traditional gender roles that my mother filled so well. And although they were imposed on me, I rejected them at every juncture. This caused our share of disagreements and left me feeling ever so small when Dad put me in my place.

There have been some critical moments, in years long since past, that sting even now when I recall them. He was not in favor of my education, “You will only get married and have babies,” he said. Although marriage and babies were part of my life’s plan, becoming a nurse had to come first. From the age of five, nursing has been my direction, and although my father didn’t necessarily agree with my plan, he generously paid for my education to one of the best nursing schools in the country. Now, after two master’s degrees, I am called Professor. What makes me smile is the way Dad brags about this accomplishment.

Then there was my divorce; at the time it was the ruination of all things good. “You are damaging your kids FOREVER!” my father shouted at me. Twelve years later, it is evident that my kids are thriving, a fact even my father can’t deny. Indeed, he rejoices in all of their accomplishments—my daughter, aged 28, now a pediatric nurse practitioner and my 25 year-old son, a solidly employed heavy equipment operator. Then there are my two beautiful stepdaughters, both thriving in school.

Over the years Dad has softened somewhat. I’d like to think it’s because I have shown him another way—that I have changed his perspective. I think that is what he was trying to tell me when he said, “You’ve changed our lives in more ways than you could ever know.”

But then so too have I been changed. This I believe.

I teach. I teach nursing. I teach others how to care. In this process, I hope I have changed people’s lives, positively influencing my children, my patients, the students I have taught, perhaps even my parents. Certainly, I have been changed by all of them. Many lessons have been learned from the people who have touched my life— courage, persistence, resilience, patience, empathy, and not least of all, forgiveness.

These lyrics from the play Wicked come to mind:

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

Because I knew you I have been changed for good.”

This I believe.