“What is today, asked Pooh?”
“Today is today, responded Piglet. My favorite day.”
Today is one of the most important days of the year for many of us, but especially myself. My dad was born on this day, Earth Day (no coincidence there!)
My dad is the greatest man I have ever met and hundreds of people will tell you the same. He became a father at a very young age and stepped up to the plate like no other parent could. My parents divorced before I was the age of one and he was like a stay at home dad. He began a business in which he could work from home so he was able to be with me. He was room “mother”, “Cookie Mom” for Girl Scouts and taught me what is important in life. I could spend days, weeks, possibly years writing about the endless gratitude I have for my Dad but now that I am a Mom and finally an “adult” I would not have the time and you may get bored but I wouldn’t. The greatest gift my dad has ever given me was belief. The day I awoke in the hospital after my bike accident was beyond surreal. I had forgotten what happened but awoke to sounds of children crying. I opened my eyes and realized I was in the ICU and could not speak or move because of the amount of tubes I had from a feeding tube to a catheter. Then it hit me just as my head had hit the stone wall the day before: I had brain surgery, I was alive, I was scared out of my mind. Then, I saw my dad sitting in a chair next to me and I could breathe. He is/was my rock. He never left the hospital except to get clothes or food and the staff allowed him to sleep there every night on a cot. As amazing as all this is, nothing compares to the fact that he never once gave up on me during my journey with chronic pain. Chronic pain was not a term used back then so most people may not have believed me. After my hair grew back and the scars healed my disease became invisible to everyone except my dad. He gave me the greatest gift anyone could offer someone with chronic pain: he believed me. A dictionary could hold every doctor, procedure, surgery, and appointments I had weekly to find a cure to my physical pain. My dad was there for each one and never gave up. I was a lot to deal with, trust me. I was too lost in my pain to see how much chronic pain was affecting him as well and we had arguments at times. Neither of us were angry with one another, we were frustrated and angry at the disease. I did a lot of stupid crap in my late teens, early twenties, and some years after that to numb my chronic pain. I drank with friends way too much and there were a few times he had to come pick me up in the middle of the night because I was to wasted to think or I was in trouble. One day at about three in the morning, my dad came to Atlantic City to pick myself and two friends up because we had spent the night drinking forgetting all responsibilities. I just wanted the physical pain gone and drinking with friends worked to numb the physical and emotional pain of the invisible illness. He was livid. He arrived in AC and I had no idea where I parked my car the night before. We spent the early hours of the morning looking for my car and once found it realized the tires were cut. Not a proud moment or day in my life or as a daughter. As angry as he was, he called AAA and we went home. The guilt of my actions ate me alive. The guilt I felt after each new doctor or procedure or medication that did not resolve my pain aided in my guilt. I let my dad down. My chronic pain was still there. Fast forward many years and I enter the Pain Rehab Center against my desire. I did not want to learn how to manage pain naturally, I did not want to not have pain medication, and I was not ready to stop searching for a cure. Had it not been for my dad pleading with me to go and giving me encouragement to try something different I never would have gone and I am not sure I would still be alive today. I mean that, which is scary but true. My dad persuaded me to go and thank the Universe I did. I spent about four weeks there with other people who had chronic pain and we were taught how to accept and manage pain naturally. The final week there is family week where a family member comes (and stays) to learn about chronic pain and the approach taught to me regarding management and acceptance. After three plus weeks of being there alone I was so happy to see my dad and I will never forget the look in his eyes when he first saw me: he was happy, he was proud, he knew and saw my strength.
While I was in physical therapy, or groups caregivers (my dad) had their own meetings regarding caregiver stress and chronic pain in general. I left physical therapy a few minutes early one day and ran down to the room where those meetings were held. I saw tears falling down my dad’s face and I did not know if he was sad or happy or both. It was both. When I walked in the room, I realized almost every family member was crying. They all finally understood the hell and torture their loved ones were going through because of chronic pain. The number one cause of death for people with chronic pain is suicide and I am sure that was not an easy thing for my dad to hear. He loves me the way I love Kayci. We had/have a bond not many people have especially father and daughter. He was also filled with tears of happiness because he believed in me. He knew I was strong enough to manage pain naturally and was ready to be there every step of the way. He knew the importance of moderation, meditation, and “difficult days.” When we were both home in good old New Jersey he supported me and kept me in check. I was a social worker and he knew I could not work more than thirty hours a week because my health and management of chronic pain had to come first or I would end up right back where I had been prior to the Pain Rehab Center. He knew and pushed me to work on meditation and never once gave up on me when I was having a hard time. Words cannot express my love and gratitude for my dad. He helped me save my life. He taught me lessons kids do not learn in school. He taught me to live simply, be grateful, help others, and that time with loved ones is so much more important than anything money can buy. I do not remember any present or anything monetary from my childhood, I only remember time with my dad.
I cannot imagine a world without Tom Martin in it and any of you who know him reading this know what I am talking about. He is a giver. He helps more people than I can count and is the greatest person I have ever known. I have said and written this but I have no idea what I did in a former life to deserve the person I call dad. I love you dad so much it brings tears to my eyes. I never want to let you down. I know it is impossible to ever be as selfless and giving as you are but if I can be half the person you are, I am proud of myself.
Happy Bearthday Dad!
When I count my blessings, I count you twice