“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” ~His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Today I am grateful for my amazing, kind-hearted, soft-spoken Dad.  My Dad is like my own personal life tutor.  He is gentle and ever-present.  His love is the very definition of unconditional.  It never makes me feel clausterphobic.  He is not someone who says, “I love you” or gives a lot of hugs.  In fact, he is very, very reserved with showing any emotion on a regular basis.  That is why, when he does get emotional it affects all of us so much more.  He never raises his voice.  He doesn’t punish in a painful or spiteful way.  He expresses disappointment – worse than any screaming match or harsh words I can endure.  Thus, I know where, how, when I’ve disappointed my father throughout the years…those times stick in my throat and I choke them back as I did the tears.  My father is the embodiment of sacrifice.  He has given so much to stay in a marriage rocked by disease.  My mother’s R.A. has been a curse.  My father, owner of a youthful, wide-eyed wanderlust spirit, has never seen even a small fraction of the world he once wanted to experience.  Vacation funds have been diverted to medical expenses.  Bike rides, hikes, and camping under the skies has given way to comfortable hotel rooms with sturdy beds.  The last time we went camping as a family I was in grade school and I’m not even sure if my youngest sister was born.  That is a lifetime ago.

My Dad has his close friends, he participates in church and with community philanthropies as much as he can, he is on many of the neighbors’ speed dials as a free-of-charge “Mr. Fix It.”  Despite all of the demands of maintaining a career in the competitive world of sales, he continues, as he always has, to put his family first.  He drops everything at a moment’s notice to be there for his 96 year-old mother, my mom, me and my sisters, and now his granddaughter.  The 18 month old is the light of his world these days.  Prior to that, the mini-schnauzer that I bought against their wishes in 1994 at the beginning of my junior year at U of I, Molly (put down in 2006) was the one thing that could put a smile on his face, guaranteed.  I think both Molly and now my niece represent the reciprocity of unconditional love.  The rest of his family does love him, but with the condition that we have cost him both the highs and the lows of the experience.  Hence, knowing that there has been disappointment there.

I don’t know how I would have endured all of my medical mess over the course of my life, and especially in these past two years where both the physical and the mental woes collided at the same time, without my Dad.  He has been there through it all as I spilled my guts, was sad, was afraid, was angry, was frustrated, was hopeless, and got determined in intermittent spurts of motivation. I am not comfortable showing all of those cards to my Mom as she deals on a daily basis with all of her demons…demons that have become a rift in the relationship that I have with her.  My struggles spawn a blame game with her which then, inevitably, ends up causing her to feel worse about herself, her parenting, her marriage, and things from her past that she can not do anything about.  Thus, for much of my adult life, I’ve sheltered her from my raw emotions and have been too guarded to feel that same connection with her that I appreciate so much with my Dad.  I know that bothers her too, but it isn’t nearly as bad as when I’ve let my honestly creep out with her in the past and that sent her reeling.  I mourn that disconnect frequently, but it is a coping mechinism that I am thoroughly aware of and choose to enact.

Having a chronic disease like R.A. is much more than simply treating and managing R.A. alone.  Everyone has their own personal hells, challenges, and struggles and struggles.  Simply seeing something as a plot on a two-dimensional timeline hardly begins to hack away at it.  I can not begin to unravel the complex, knotted web of complications that are a result of choices upon choices I’ve made througout the years.  Coming into such a predicament, as we all do, it really helps to have someone like my Dad there to help and simply provide that constant calm presence.  As much as he is a hard-core, tried and true Roman Catholic, he sure does live out some Buddhist philosophies too.  I like that!  Maybe that is why I used that quote today.  My Dad has not gotten what he had hoped for in his life on a surface level: vacations, time to learn to play golf better, a nicer car…but, he has earned the genuine and deepest of love and respect from his family.  Given a choice, I bet a lot of men would want that over anything else.

Today the two families are getting together for a father’s day picnic.  My brother-in-law’s family is that p.d.a. type; they hug and kiss, tell eachother that they love one another, and truly like spending time together.  We are not the opposite end of that spectrum, just not so far on their side of it.  Today I am feeling really bad physically….maybe it is all that crazy stormy weather that has been rocking this area lately.  Maybe it is that I’m just experiencing a flare up – or both….or neither.

My right ear is not working.  It feels clogged up and the pressure hurts.  I found out that sometimes R.A. patients can have flare ups in the fluid of the ear as it is very similar to your joint fluid.  Who knew?  I’ve still not scheduled an appointment with an E.N.T. doc – and I know I really need to.  This ear thing and my constant sinus problems have combined to make me a little too wobbly and dizzy.  I didn’t even hear my phone ringing yesterday because I was laying on my good ear side reading a book.  I was that deaf…and I need to fix that a.s.a.p.  But, despite the health issues, I’m very excited to go to this picnic.  I can’t wait to just give my Dad a hug and let him know that he is the best.  He doesn’t want me to buy him anything….fine, I’ll still get him a card.  But, being a closet Buddhist, my Dad knows that it isn’t about “stuff,” it is about having that time together.  That just adds to the list of why my Dad is the best!

So on this father’s day, I am grateful and there is simply no better medicine than love.

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