When I was growing up my father didn’t really express his emotions verbally. My brother and I didn’t hear “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” from him. My mother was the one who nurtured us emotionally & let us know that she loved us and was proud of us. He sure let us know when he was disappointed in us though. My dad was a very hard worker, he wasn’t home very much because of that. At times he worked two jobs from morning till late at night. He was always a driver of some sort, delivering for a bakery/bread company, then a linen company and at one point a second job was working at Macy’s delivering furniture. He really worked his ass off all his life!
I remember playing Whiffle ball and softball in the backyard with my dad and my friends on a Sunday afternoon. That was a special memory because dad was always so busy working. I also remember when my brother was young my dad was a coach for his little league team for a few years and I know my dad really enjoyed that, it was a great experience for him and my brother! Dad would also let us kids go into his bakery truck and take some of the soon expiring cupcakes and Twinkies to eat, that was so fun to us! I know my father came from a family where his father wasn’t very emotionally expressive either & beat them with a belt when they were bad, that’s kind of the way it was back then in those days. When we were younger my brother and I would get spanked with a belt too.
My mom and dad divorced when I was 16 years old. A short time after that my mother remarried and my brother and I chose to live with our father. I moved out when I was 22 years old to live with my boyfriend at the time. I ended up getting pregnant and having my daughter when I was 24 years old. This was not a healthy relationship for me. When my daughter was seven weeks old she had emergency open heart surgery at UCSF, she almost died. Two months later my ex threw us out of the house, he clearly didn’t want to be a dad. Before my daughter was a year old he signed away his parental rights. But that situation is an entirely different story, however it was during that time that I started to see the love in my father’s actions and not his words!
I had to move in with my father and my brother who lived in a two bedroom apartment. I wasn’t working at the time because my daughter had some health challenges. My father gave up his bed for me to sleep on while he slept on the couch. He gave me his car to drive because he made arrangements with his job to use his work truck. My dad took money out of his 401-K so I could hire an attorney to fight for custody of my daughter. I felt so awful that my father and brother had to change their lifestyles because of my daughter and I. A short time later we decided to rent a three bedroom house so we could all have our own room and so we could have a yard for not only my daughter to play in but for my 125 pound Rottweiler that I brought to the apartment with us. (I was NOT leaving him behind)!
In order to be home with my daughter I decided to start doing day care so I could take care of my baby and I financially. My father and brother were the first male role models that my daughter had in her life. She couldn’t have asked for harder working men. We had a great life, we had a lot of fun together. My dad always helped me out no matter what it was. Seeing my dad with my daughter is the first time I really got to see him open his heart and express his love like I’ve never seen…….. his granddaughter changed his heart forever! When my daughter was six years old I met the man who is now my husband and who adopted my daughter and became her father. Even though we’ve always lived close by my father and saw him often it wasn’t easy to leave with my daughter, I knew he would miss her every day, it was going to break his heart.
My husband and I have been together 16 years now. About 10 years ago my father was diagnosed with primary progressive MS. He started out with a limp in his walk, then he graduated to walking with a cane, then he started to drag his leg at which point he needed a walker. We’ve watched over the past eight years how much of a toll this has taken on his life. My father started falling a lot. Each time it seems it would get worse. My father is a very stubborn Italian man who has so much pride he never wanted to ask anybody for help. November 4th, “2013” I received a phone call from the maintenance man at my father’s senior living apartment that they found my father wedged in between the wall and the toilet in his bathroom calling for help and it looked as though he had been down for several days.
I rushed to the hospital…….. my father was in bad shape. The last thing he remembered was putting candy in a bowl for Halloween, which meant he was stuck for five days. The Dr. told me that he was just hours away from dying. His kidneys were shutting down, he was completely dehydrated, he was hallucinating really bad, his body was sepsis, and because he was down for so long he had a pressure wound right above his tail bone that was big, black, very infected & caused him to be sicker and stay sepsis. They had no choice but to do surgery on this large wound. He was in ICU for several days, we just did not know what was going to happen. Thank God he recovered from that. For the next two months he was in a specialty hospital so they could take care of his wound properly. Once he could leave there and the wound could now be maintained by basic nurses we moved him to Long term care, a skilled nursing facility.
Fast forward to February of “2016” my father still lives in long-term care. This is not what I wanted for my Dad. Assisted living however is much more than we can afford. My father has not been able to walk since November of “2013”. Over the past two years I’ve watched my father’s health declined rapidly. He does have good days but it seems like he has more bad than good. Because of the MS he’s had a hard time with his bladder not working properly so they’ve had to put a surgical tube in to relieve that problem, but he has had countless UTI infections. My father was just in the hospital last week again for sepsis and I’ve noticed each time he goes in its taking more of a toll on his body and mind. For the first few days he couldn’t put any words together without repeating himself, he had no idea what was going on. If you can imagine having sepsis means “A potentially life-threatening complication of infection”. If it is severe which in my fathers situation always seems to be the case then other organs start to shut down like his kidneys always have a problem! As I stood there looking at my dad laying in the hospital bed watching him try to feed himself it broke my heart. I put my hand on top of his and said “Dad let me help you” so I took the spoon and I fed my dad. When I looked in his eyes I see a mind that’s lost, I see innocence, yet I see pain, I see him trying to understand but struggling to comprehend. I have never given up Hope that my father will walk again one day or that he will get better. I pray everyday for that cure for MS. Sometimes I feel like I am just not doing enough!
When my father retired he immediately got sick, he never had the opportunity to do all the things he talked about doing. He really wanted to go to Australia! Sometimes people don’t verbally express their heart felt emotions until they get in touch with the fact that they are dying. When I was 28 years old I was going to marry a man I did not Love. I thought I was doing the right thing. Two days before we were to be married my father came to me and I will never forget this……… he said “Tina, do you Love him? Do you want to marry him”? He said “If you don’t call it off now, don’t go through with it”! I said “dad everyone will be so upset with me, all the money that you and mom spent, my friends bought their bridesmaids dresses”, he said “Tina they will understand, screw the money, and if they don’t Fuck ‘Em”! So…………I called off my wedding thanks to my dad because he knew I wasn’t happy and he called me on it!
When my husband and I were going to get married in June of “2013” just before I was to walk down the aisle I started feeling panicked, I had to talk to my Dad! I said “SOMEONE GO GET MY DAD NOW, GO GET MY DAD”! Dad came in so fast he looked at me and he said “Tina are you sure” I looked at him and I said “Yes Dad, this time it’s right, I am ready” & he walked me down the aisle! I have learned so much from my dad throughout my life and I honestly can’t tell you what I will do without him (hopefully I won’t know that for a long time). What I want to say is this……..Don’t wait for the right moment or opportunity to say things to people, whether you need to make amends, get something off your chest, set things straight, tell people how you feel, you never know what life will hand you, take the time right this second to do whatever it is you have been putting off! I got to write and publish my memoir a year and a half ago and when I brought a copy to my Dad and gave it to him he was so touched, so proud of me that he was crying, it was such a special moment for me! No matter how old we get we always want to know our parents are proud of us and support us.
My father is in the battle of his life here with MS. I will continue to be a strong positive voice in his life to make sure he gets the best care possible. I will feed him when he is too weak to feed himself, I will tell him stories to get his mind off of the bad setbacks, I will help make him as comfortable as I can. I will clean up after him, I will keep his affairs in order, I will tell him about our days, the stories about the animals and the funny things that happen. I will do all this and much more because he is my father and I love him and it is now my turn to take care of him, not as a pay back but because I love him unconditionally and I feel I owe it to my dad. I am his power of attorney so I am legally his voice but I will honor my fathers choices and I will do all I can to help him.
So you see throughout my life when I felt like my father robbed me of the expression of his emotions I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to his actions! His love was always around me in everything he did! Working his ass off, giving up his bed, helping me fight for my daughter, allowing me to bring hundreds of animals home thru the years, even in our heated head butting (believe me Italian daughter and Italian father) HELLO……No stubbornness there!! It was all done with Love from both of us it always has been. I have learned that not everyone is able to be so expressive verbally, but if their actions show their Love then go easy on them. Some people don’t show much in their words or actions and I have my own thoughts about that.
In every card my father has given to me, my daughter, my brother, he always says things like “no matter where I am I will be watching you” or “I am so proud of you”, he will say “when I am gone look for me I will be there”. I believe him and I know that no matter what, my father will always be a part of this little girl’s heart and he will always be my Daddy!
Wishing you Peace & Serenity……..Harmony