I learned at a very young age how special my father was. At a young age he raised me on his own, (for the most part) was our “room mother” in my elementary school classes and even led some Girl Scout troops. I was never embarrassed by my dad as many kids are. I was so proud to let all my friends know that I had the greatest dad in the world. I cannot count the number of nights he read my stories and scratched my back until I fell asleep or spent hours upon hours playing with me. My childhood was not always easy but I find it very difficult to bitch about the bad things in my childhood when I was truly blessed with the greatest dad in the world.
I cannot imagine what he must have been feeling the day I fell off of my bike. Following my fall, I actually walked home from the accident (cell phones were not around unless you count the huge ones on Saved By The Bell.) A few cars stopped when they saw me on the ground but stubborn Jessica said loud and clear: “I’m fine.” I walked home about half a mile with a broken collar bone. I knew I was hurt but I had no clue my brain was literally bleeding on the inside and clearly brain injuries are no joke. When I arrived home, I was quite sad that my dad’s car was not in our driveway but I still thought I was fine and even put the movie I had rented in our VCR (definitely showing my age.) He found me lying on the couch and rushed me to the nearest hospital. Hours later, following an MRI the doctor on call explained to my father that I had to be transported to a better hospital with a much better trauma unit and time was of the essence. The only thing I really remember after that is lying in the ambulance having my clothes cut off. I remember tears in my dad’s eyes but I am sure he did not want me to worry and be more frightened than I already was. The day after my surgery I woke up in the ICU surrounded by other critical patients. My dad was right next to me and there was no one else in the world I would have rather seen. He never left my side. They made a tiny little room for him for the following nights that I was in the ICU and he was either with me or asleep on a cot. Now, that I am a parent I cannot express the amount of courage and strength my dad had during this time. Hell, my little girl was in the hospital once because of a very high fever and I was a hot mess. There is absolutely nothing like the love for your child. I know that now. Neither my dad, nor I had any idea what the following years/life would entail. We were just happy I was alive.
One would think that that had to have been the hardest thing my dad ever faced with his only child. However, in my opinion I think watching me suffer with chronic pain for years was a lot more difficult. As if raising a teenager girl is not hard enough, add chronic pain to the mix and a parent has their hands full. With each medication, operation, and procedure I lashed out on my dad. I wasn’t mean to him really I just wanted him to understand. I would cry for hours and hours begging him to find a solution and take the pain away. My dad never gave up and was very solution focused. He went to every appointment, held my hand, and never gave up on me. Even when I was self medicating and in the deepest of depressions he did not give up. I drove him nuts! I was a mess. He hated when I went out with friends drinking in college because he knew nine times out of ten it was not going to end well. I can have a glass of wine now on occasion but back then alcohol was like Pringles: once I popped I could not stop. Alcohol was the only thing that numbed the pain physically and sometimes emotionally. I made my dad so mad which caused me to hate myself even more. He was the only person who never left my side and the one person I always wanted to make proud. I let him down over and over again. I do not blame myself now for my actions as chronic pain is such a horrible demon and I found my way through the pain, not out but through. My dad was my caregiver for more than half my life due to chronic pain. We did not stop looking for a cure for ten plus years. Once I found the Mayo Clinic and came to acceptance, everything changed. During my time there the Pain Center offered a weekend for family members to come to truly learn about what their loved ones were going through. I have maybe seen my dad cry five times in my life and during a family session I saw many tears. It felt so good to see him cry. That may sound awful but it felt so amazing to have the person I loved more than anything understand to some degree the real pain, physical and emotional that I was feeling. I love my daughter more than anything in this world and cannot imagine the pain (intended or not) that my dad went through. Chronic pain affects a lot more people than the patient. I had to finally rid myself of the guilt I felt for most of my life because of the stress I caused my dad due to chronic pain. I would do the same for my daughter. No one chooses chronic pain but it takes a very loving, strong person to stand by you and never let go.
My dad’s birthday was yesterday and it is no coincidence that his birthday falls on Earth Day. Since I have known my dad he always has been a giver. Anyone that knows my dad knows what a gift he is, not just to his only child but to the world. This post is dedicated to the greatest man I have ever known and I have no idea what I did in a former life to deserve a dad like him. Without his support, love, and strength I would not be here writing this blog, helping others.