I was about two months into my training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. At his point in training I hated it; I was being pushed to excel, stretched beyond what I thought were my limitations and challenged beyond anything I have ever been through. I cried nearly every day, it was hard and I was struggling…
On a Saturday morning, in Ruston, Louisiana, I woke up to a phone call from my mom. I immediately knew something was really wrong. My dad had gone in that morning for his routine scan; he had been diagnosed with brain cancer just two years prior. The scan showed that the cancer from his brain had now spread down his spine and throughout his body and his spinal cord was riddled with tumors. At this point, there was nothing doctors could do; the cancer had totally taken over his body. My mom told me the doctors were giving him three to six month to live.
The emotion that goes along with such a phone call cannot really be translated into words. I believe my heart physically broke that day (I literally have had a heart condition I have to take meds for since around this time). Now the problem was I was a long ways from home is Louisiana and without hesitation I knew I had to go home and see my dad. The question of whether or not to go home was never a question for me; I also left Ruston with no intention of going back. Thanks to an amazing director at the center, a great roommate and friends, they booked me a ticket, packed my bags and took me to the airport.
Everything beyond that phone call is nonexistent in my memory. I know I flew and had a layover is some city and then arrived in Salt Lake. The only think I do remember is watching people move around me and hearing absolutely nothing. It was like this crazy out of body experience for me where I was numb, not moving, and everyone else just moved around me. It was surreal to see people going about their regular routines when everything, EVERYTHING was not routine for myself and our family. I am slightly grateful for the numbness that day; it would have been a rough ride home to break down, in an airport and all.
|airplane wing while in flight|
When I arrived in Salt Lake and was getting a ride to my parent’s house, I thought to myself, “I am never going back to Louisiana, it was so hard and life is hard and I’m tired of hard…”
We pulled up to my parent’s house, the driveway and street around their house was full of people. I was mad and frustrated when I saw this; I wanted my dad to myself in that moment. My pity party commenced early on in the journey, like on the way to see my dad early on. That changed real quickly…
I walked up to the front door, walked in a saw my dad on the couch. I ran to him and jumped into his lap, like I was five again, it’s one of my very favorite moments I’ve ever shared with my dad. I was just his little girl all the sudden and my dad was sick, very sick.
|Little girl lying in her dad's lap.|
He just held me for a bit while I cried. I hadn’t cried yet and this just did me in. He held me in his arms and in his always-generous way thanked me for coming so quickly from Louisiana. The next thing he said threw me for a loop. He said…
“Promise me you’ll go back to Louisiana and finish your training; learn your braille and you will use a cane from here on out.”
CRAAAAAAAAAP!!! I was shocked. After just mentally deciding I wasn’t going back to that madness he pulls this. Of course, without thinking much of it at the time, (and not being able to so “no” to my dad) I said I would. Little did I know that later this would come back to haunt/bless me.
My dad lived just three weeks from the discovery of his relapse. He died exactly seven years ago today, on October 16, 2006 at 7:02 pm, at just 42 years of age.
It was possibly the best, most rewarding, most life changing weeks of my life spending it with him. He taught me so much in life but in those three weeks he taught me everything I needed to know. I thank God every day that I was able to spend that time with him, just bask in his optimism and happiness and gratitude for life.
I reflect on this memory because I often wonder what would have happened to me if my dad had not made me make that promise. He obviously knew what was best for me, what I needed and was prompted to say that one sentence to me. I returned to Louisiana very shortly after my dad’s funeral. It was an incredibly difficult transition for me but every day I just remembered my promise to him and that pulled me through. My time at LCB was life-changing, changed the entire course of my life, and I think he knew that would happen.
Today I will wear grey for brain cancer awareness and orange, because he loved orange. I will go out independently, take the bus, run some errands…with my cane in hand and honor his life in a way that seems fit.
Whatever your motivation for gaining independence, find it, it will make all the difference in the world. Let people know you love them and be kind.
|Dad & daughter sillouette, walking hand in hand towards a sunset.|