Happy Father’s Day, Dad

I remember sitting on the living room floor watching Wind in the Willows with my sister when I was little, and waiting for my Dad to get home from work, wearing his Western Farm Service hat and dusty jeans after a hard day’s work.

I remember riding in my Dad’s old Ford Ranger to go to our landlord’s place to feed cows in the middle of the winter, a foot of snow on the ground in freezing temperatures, watching from the warmth of the pickup while Dad made sure the cattle didn’t starve in the cold, and busting up the ice in the water trough.

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I remember being at my sister’s softball practices watching my Dad hit infield and outfield to the defense, coaching the girls on where the ball should be going in a given situation.

I remember my Dad sleeping when my sister and I got home from school, and waking up around dinner time, getting ready for his graveyard shift at Hanford that would start right around the same time Lacey and I would be heading to bed.

I remember my Dad teaching me how to whittle willow reeds, and how to use reeds, leaves and grass to make a little boat to sail down the St. Joe River. I remember pushing it off into the river at our favorite camp spot on Bird Creek, my Dad driving slow as we left so we could watch it float down the river as long as we could. I remember wanting to cry when it disappeared into the rapids.

I remember my Dad teaching my sister and I how to start a campfire. I remember some of my favorite childhood memories coming from camping on the St. Joe with the family.

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I remember overhearing my parents talking about my Dad’s back problems, and the seat in his truck that he thought at the time was the cause of his back pain.

I remember when his pain began to spread. I remember when in a matter of months, my Dad lost the majority of strength in his left arm, and nearly lost use of it completely.

I remember when my Dad was diagnosed with Arnold Chiari Malformation.

I remember not understanding why my Dad couldn’t do the things he’d always been able to do.

I remember my Dad being frustrated and angry that he was losing strength and ability.

I remember my Mom crying.

I remember my Dad doing everything in his power, to this very day, to figure out some way or another to provide for the family.

I remember being picked up from elementary school early and riding up to Spokane with my Grandparents, to visit my Dad in the hospital after having brain surgery.

I remember my Dad regaining strength and use of his left arm. I remember things getting better.

I remember hope for the future.

I remember being the batboy for my sister’s softball team, the Icebreakers.

I remember going to softball tournaments. ALL. SUMMER. LONG.

I remember my Dad assistant coaching her team. I remember all the girls loved him, even though he demanded their respect and effort. I remember he loved coaching them.

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I remember going swimming at a hotel in Lewiston. I remember my Dad pushing off into the water, swimming as he’d done thousands of times before. I remember all of us quickly realizing something was wrong when he stopped, in excruciating pain.

It was back.

I remember starting to get headaches in middle school.

I remember my Dad finding out he’d had a small stroke, and had likely had multiple over time.

I remember getting my first MRI. It wasn’t so bad.

I remember getting diagnosed with a severe Chiari herniation. My Dad’s herniation was 7 millimeters before he had decompression surgery. My herniation is 17 millimeters.

I remember being scared.

My sister discovered she has a Chiari herniation as well a few years back.

It’s a family affair, I guess.

The doctors told me as long as I’m not having severe symptoms, there is no reason to have surgery yet. I’ve yet to experience severe symptoms outside of what we refer to as “Chiari headaches”, so for now, I’ll keep living my life to the fullest until that day may come.

I remember going to New York to the The Chiari Institute. I remember it’s shiny, mirror-style windows that reminded me of the Flash Cube Building at home in Kennewick.

I remember sitting in the waiting room with Lacey while Mom and Dad were in the consultation with Dr. Bolognese.

I remember Mom and Dad telling us that Dad would be returning to New York the next summer for tethered cord surgery.

I remember Lacey and I staying home while Mom and Dad went off to New York for Dad’s surgery. I remember being scared.

I remember my parents returning from New York, my Dad in good spirits, but extremely sore. It took him months to recover.

I remember the surgery helping some of my Dad’s symptoms, but a whole new set of symptoms cropping up after the surgery. The surgeries, sickness, and mini-strokes along the way had taken their toll.

I remember going off to college, and my parents helping me move into my dorm room.

I remember being depressed in college.

I also remember having a lot of fun in college.

I remember when my Dad found out I’d been occasionally smoking marijuana off at college. I remember how petrified I was of how he would react.

I remember him reacting with understanding, a little disappointment, and a lot of support and (eventual) acceptance. I remember it turning into a positive experience we can talk openly about today, and I greatly appreciate that we have that type of father-son relationship.

I remember talking to my Dad about the depression, as well as (some of) the fun. I remember his understanding. I remember the stories from his own “young and dumb” days.

I remember visiting home during college and talking about what I was learning about, or how the Seahawks, Mariners or Cougs were doing. I remember arguing about the officials’ calls during Seahawks games. I love watching the Seahawks, Mariners or Cougs with my Dad, and I know he misses watching the Seahawks with me every Sunday in the fall just as much as I do. Probably even more.

Sometimes I fall into my youthful egocentricities and forget how much my parents have sacrificed for me, how much they mean to me, and how much I mean to them, and how much it hurts when I’m thoughtless at times. (Watch Episode 2 of the Netflix show Master of None, it exemplifies this common phenomenon in the opening scene)

I know that they understand and forgive my thoughtlessness too, because they remember being my age.

I remember crying when my Dad told me that he’d accepted the fact that he would never fully recover from Chiari, and he was at the point of searching for an acceptable level of quality of life, rather than searching for a new way to get cured.

I remember being angry.

I remember telling him that I thought he was giving up.

I remember not wanting to accept the thought that my Dad, my hero I’d looked up to my whole life, was done fighting.

I remember when I realized how wrong I was to think about his decision in that light.

I remember accepting what my Dad was trying to tell me, and that he wasn’t giving up. He was trying to make the best out of a terrible situation. He was thinking realistically, and doing what was best for him and the family, both physically and financially. Especially considering the fact that another major surgery could very likely kill him.

I remember when my sister got married, and I remember seeing my Dad cry tears of joy.

I remember when my niece Charley was born, and the elation he and my Mom felt becoming grandparents for the first time. A similar elation I felt becoming an uncle, albeit, I’d imagine their elation was exponentially more powerful than what I felt.

It’s clear that Charley will idolize Grandpa for years to come.

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I remember, to this day, my Dad working to maintain my parents’ property, even though every time he goes out and works for a day, it takes him weeks of painful recovery.

I remember all the family reunions my parents have hosted, and the hours of work he put into the events both before and after, and the fun everyone has had at the events. No one, other than Mom, Lacey, and myself, saw the painful physical toll these events have on my Dad. But he continues to sacrifice to this day, because he loves his family, and he loves to see them smile.

Some days are better than others. Some days he can go out and work in the yard or the garden.

Some days are worse than others. Some days it takes all his strength to simply get out of bed.

Some days the pain incapacitates him completely.

Nonetheless, no matter how bad the pain and the symptoms get, he never stops trying his best to be a good father, grandfather and husband.

Chiari has dealt my Dad and our family a heavy blow, but it does not define us, and it does not define him. Someday, if my Chiari takes hold of me and doesn’t let go, I hope I am able to endure the physical and emotional trauma half as good as my father has during his entire life.

Through all the challenges, my Dad has remained the strongest person I know, and has sacrificed everything for our family.

And, he’s still the funniest person I know.

I could not have asked for a better father.

I love you, Dad, and I hope you have a great Father’s Day.

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