Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Father’s Day Thoughts

I have made one thing clear to my daughters as they have either reached adulthood, or about to, of any of the holidays of the year, Father’s Day is the most important to me. As I am sure for many, Father’s Day carries many different emotions and feelings. But I define my life, by those three letters, “D” “A” “D”. And as the subtitle of my blog states, “life as a Dad, and a survivor,” “Dad” is the first mention of my two definitions.

I have made many references to Harry Chapin’s song “Cats In The Cradle” over the years. And as the meme suggests, as the song reaches its later verses, reality sinks in. And though I would never have expected Chapin to have added an alternate final verse, as a grown son in his fifties now, I wonder what he would have wrote and sung about life in the end, without “Dad”. As happy as Father’s Day is for many of us, it is also a sad day for those of us who have lost our Fathers, some long ago, some recently.

The life between my Father and I was a complicated one, a tale of two halves, fortunately, the second half being more memorable and lasting. And as I have written recently, I am finally working through at least one of the issues from my childhood with him.

And that brings me to others who are celebrating without their “Dads” for one reason or another. There are any number of reasons a child may not have a Father figure in their life. But none will be more difficult than a child knowing that they have a Father, somewhere, and either the Father has made the choice not be in that child’s life, or, just as bad, a mother choosing to alienate her child from their father. When this happens, while the intended target is the Father, it is ALWAYS the unintended target, the child, who will pay the most for that act. EVERY TIME! This is not only an unnatural act to deny a relationship with a parent, but it is child abuse.

Being a Dad has been one the most meaningful thing in my life. Being a parent does not come with a manual, if you are lucky, you may have experiences that you have witnessed from others that may help guide you.

Just to get to the point of becoming a father was an uphill battle for me with my health issues. Having the title of “Dad” does not automatically make you a Dad. Sure there are lots of fun and laughs watching your child grow, but parenthood also comes with seeing your children experience pain and sometimes heart break. And that can be real tough.

And if that is not hard enough, throw divorce into the mix. While trying to make sure that the bonds between father and child are not stressed or fractured, additional pressures are faced. Unlike my father who made the choice to be distant in my childhood, I promised my daughters I would always be in their lives. And I have kept that promise. With the exception of two Father’s Days early on in the divorce, for reasons I will not go into presently, I have celebrated this day every year with my daughters.

But just as Chapin’s song goes, when our children grow, they have their own lives, and eventually their own children, their own Father’s Days. And that may mean, just the phone call from your daughter or son having to be good enough. The first time that happens will always be hard. But to have gotten to this point in all of your lives is a foundation that can never be taken away.

I have one more Father’s Day yet with a “child,” and then I will have two grown daughters, who will always be my daughters, but may have something going on in their lives which may not allow them to be with me on this day. But I will have Facetime to fall back on, and just to see their smile will be just as good, to bring back all the memories that they have given me over the years.

And with each year, yes, I miss my Dad. I am sure that he is watching, and happy with the young ladies my daughters are becoming. And I am sure he is happy with the Dad I am. I know I am very happy.

Happy Father’s Day to all. And for those whose Fathers are no longer with them, I hope you have fond memories to carry you through this day.

My Wish For My Daughter

She has come a long way, literally and figuratively. A blessing from China, when the option of becoming a father was not possible any other way, my daughter is taking her next steps, into her direction of life, that is by her own will. And it is a strong will that she has.

The term “matching” was used during the adoption process. The Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs takes the information of the parents from their biography, and “matches” that to a child. A family is created through the process of international adoption.

Being a cancer survivor and unable to have biological children, China gave me the opportunity I did not have in the United States, becoming a father.

The oldest of my two daughters, she is a role model for her younger sister, who is just a year behind graduation. Together, they have made a great team who liked to help, laugh, and love. Each has their own personalities, their own interests, and their own ways to get to this day.

For my older daughter, there is a natural progression to her, a gift if you will. She is easily frustrated with practice as she is a quick study, even with something she has never been taught as was pointed out by her karate sensei handling and using a weapon, a staff, which she had never been shown before, for reasons of her age group not qualified for weapons. She was flawless.

Or dance class, just wanting to dance, not wanting to wait for it to be her turn. One demonstration was all it took for her to learn a routine.

Out of nowhere, almost ten years ago, she picked up a pencil, and started drawing faces. This was not elementary school drawings of circles inside of circles and a curved line for a smile. These were completely recognizable faces in the style of “manga.” Again, this is just something she picked up, and to say she developed is an understatement. I am not allowed to show any of these samples, which are quite good, but it is her artwork. And she is her own worst critic. So she says “no.”

Toward the end of her middle school years, she was given an opportunity to attend a technical school which would advance and challenge her imagination and eventually give her the direction she would choose in life. Again, I am prevented by her from sharing these drawings (she is critical of herself, I say she has established herself as a “diva”), but I have no doubt, as she completes the next level of her education, and establishes herself in the world of “advertising design,” she will establish herself as one of the best, unable to hide a gift that she was clearly born with.

Maddie, you were the first to call me “Daddy.” You taught me how to care for someone and be responsible for someone, not old enough or able to do so on her own. You made me care about my decisions that I made in life, as they would not only affect me, but you, and your sister as well. You taught me to pay attention to others needs, sometimes without the availability of words. You challenged me to make decisions that would seem to go against the rules, but we would make memories out of them to last forever.

You brought a tear to my eye as you reached my height. After being a not-so-gentlemanly teenager myself, I became hyper aware once I heard a boy’s name mentioned from you. And then, getting to meet one of them. Talk about feeling out of sorts in how I was supposed to act. I had no intention of embarrassing you, as you clearly liked the boy, but by the same token, I had no idea how I was supposed to act either, a new experience for me.

Your confidence really has no limit. It is too bad you still have not recognized that. But you have every reason to be confident in what you have done, and what you will do. I will always be proud of you. I will always stand behind you and your efforts. And I will always, definitely be there for you as you begin this thing called “life.”

Congratulations on your graduation! I am so proud of you.

My Daughter’s Graduation – A Milestone I Almost Did Not Get To See

I am not being hyperbolic. To be clear, in April of 2008, I was dying. I was unaware that I had a heart condition, caused by radiation and chemoptherapies for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma back in 1988. Unbeknownst to medicine, if I were to live long enough after my treatments, it was likely my body would develop late side effects, some minor, and some major. My cardiologist called me “the luckiest guy on the planet,” for surviving a condition commonly fatal when medical intervention was not available quickly enough when that massive fatal heart attack, some refer to as a “widow maker” would strike, not if, but when.

My life would be rocked with another near fatal episode, taken out of my home in an ambulance at 3am. I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and I was septic. My body was reacting horribly to the infection from the pneumonia, caused by another one of those late effects from my treatments, and now, my body was fighting itself in an out-of-control and toxic path. Time was of the essence.

I would face several other surgeries and conditions, though not as imminent, but they were to the point that intervention was necessary, or, things could end up badly. In other words, the risk of corrective surgery was less than the event itself (a stroke or heart attack).

No one knows more than me, all too well, what it has meant to me, not just to be the father to two beautiful and intelligent young women, but to be able to watch them grow. It has been fourteen years since that first major heart surgery. I have literally thousands of memories over the years, that I got to have. I remember each and every one of them, when, and where they took place.

The life of a long term cancer survivor has not been easy for me, and to call it unpredictable is an understatement. There was no guarantee that I would live past five years, let alone 32 years. Yet, here I am.

I will never forget the words of the doctor who accepted me as his patient, even though I had never been seen in his network before. “I cannot stop the things that are happening to you. I cannot reverse the things that are happening to you. But we can slow them down. I want you to be able to watch your daughters grow, graduate, get married, and even give you grandchildren.” My daughters were five and three at the time. I just found out that I had escaped a near death experience with my heart, and this doctor was telling me, he was going to be there to help me live long enough to see all these things come true.

Well, here I am at yet another of those milestones my doctor mentioned to me, graduation. We did it. It has certainly not been easy. But in just days, I will see my oldest daughter graduate high school, and the next year, my youngest daughter get her diploma as well. I know how close it came to me not seeing this day. Again, not hyperbole.

But as the memories show, it has been a great ride, and I am hoping my doctor continues to be correct, and there will be many more photos.

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