My senior year of high school was pretty much the beginning of my adult life. I had a car, worked every day after school at a local daycare, and had big educational and career goals. I was looking forward to moving out of my parent's house. I loved my parents, but I was ready to get away and be myself.
But then I started losing him.
My dad had fallen ill. He went to various doctors locally, but no one knew what was going on. His condition got so bad that my mom drove him three hours away to one of the best hospitals in our area. After about a week of him being there, they diagnosed him with peritoneal mesothelioma.
It seemed like once we discovered he had cancer, he declined rather quickly. I remember feeling guilty for all the things I put him and my mother through, and guilty for how I was so ready to get away from home. I regretted not having a closer relationship with him and waiting too long to realize how much he meant to me.
Those moments made me think about the days that I would have children and the pain they would eventually feel when losing me. Would they regret things like I did? Would they wish we had a better relationship? Will they feel the way I do?
Now that I have a daughter, I can't imagine the heartbreaking, gut-wrenching emptiness of life without her. I had a realization when she was very young, after hundreds of flashbacks to my last moments with my dad, that I had to do everything in my power to make sure we connected.
I must be supportive and present.
I must model what I expect of her and let go of those "good child" standards that even I as an adult can't fulfill.
I must nurture her and speak to her as if she's the brightest star in the sky… Because one day, she won't have me, and it's my job to get her ready for the world.
I don't want her to hold thoughts and unspoken words in her mind. I want her to be able to talk to me, so she doesn't carry them around later as regrets like I do. So, when I'm faced with struggles as a parent, like trying not to lose my cool when she just won't give in, or soaking the bathroom floor with mermaid waves… I think about my dad.
I think about all the things I didn't get to say, all that we didn't get a chance to do, and what I would have done differently.
And it gives me patience.
Patience for the small aggravations that someday I'll miss so much. Patience to teach her right from wrong without breaking her spirit. Patience to appreciate our time together, no matter how difficult it may get. Patience to prepare her for a world, that eventually, won't have me in it.