Photo Credit: Fullam Photography

When a family member is diagnosed with a deadly disease, the whole family can feel entrapped in suspended animation.  When my father was diagnosed with late stage 3 colon cancer in August 2007, life just stopped.  Soon to be a junior in college, I didn’t want to move, make plans, or change at all without knowing what would happen to him while I would have been gone.  The rest of my family suffered a similar response to the news as well in various ways.  Throughout his illness, we grew closer as a family and learned that we could depend on each other no matter what and endure just about anything.  In December 2010, my father’s illness started interfering more and more with his everyday life until, in January 2011, the other shoe dropped and he was increasingly unable to take care of his own basic needs.  We were all happy to pitch in as much as possible to take care of him but I could tell that the care giving as well as the deep emotional pain of seeing him in this weakened state was taking a toll on all of us.  When his mind started to go, it was as if we had already lost him.  His body later followed and on Valentine’s Day 2011, he passed at Hospice of Dayton.

Personally, I didn’t have long to grieve.  I was starting a new job at a library inside of a technical school and couldn’t take off work.  I had to compartmentalize as much as possible the feelings that I had in order to succeed at my new job.  I take comfort knowing that dad was aware of my new job as well as my sister’s promotion before his cognition began its decline.  He was very proud of us for advancing our careers and earning more money in a tough economy.  I think it helped him feel comfortable leaving us behind in the end.  My mother has had the hardest time of it, being as she went back to work in the environment my dad once shared with her, a small architectural firm in Dayton.  Seeing the same sights and hearing the same voices from before he passed must be very challenging.

Recently, without discussion, we’ve all simultaneously decided to make a sea change.  We all started eating better, exercising, and embracing the opportunity for adventure each and every week.  Maybe it’s the freshness of the spring air or just the notion that life is fleeting but no matter what caused it, we are trying to experience as many things as possible now.  My day planner has never been so full, even when I was in college.  I’ve been to two different therapists and haven’t felt as close to happiness as I have by spending time with my family while embracing all that Dayton has to offer.  I love my family, I love my city, and I want to share my experiences in this blog. 

My life has not even kind of gone where I thought it would by this point.  Other than my most recent tragedy of losing my father, I also was turned down by every graduate program to which I applied despite earning a 3.97 GPA in college; I still live in Vandalia, a suburb of Dayton, despite a long term desire to leave it one day; I work at a school that I don’t attend, in the library no less (a place I never expected to work again); I’m married to a man I met in high school and we have a dog; my sister and her boyfriend live across the hall in the next door apartment and they have a cat; I’m reconnecting with friends I thought I had lost.

Despite the very difficult times I’ve had and the ones I’ll no doubt experience in the future, my story, and that of my family, is a positive one.  I still can’t fully imagine a future without my dad being there to witness it but day to day and week to week, I can slowly build a life he would be proud of.  This is my focus now.

“You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.”
— Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian lyricist and novelist.  (from Quote Vadis)

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