My dad is celebrating his 80th birthday today. My dad has always been the epitome of what a gentleman should be. My dad is 6’4″ and in his younger days scared off many a boy suitor because of his commanding size and presence. Yet to my sister and I he was the gentle giant.
My dad worked hard all his life to support first my mother and then my sister and I as well. He helped build the runway at a local military air base. He worked for years as an auto mechanic and then a welder. It was at this last job at the age of 42 my dad became disabled. He injured his back which led to damage to the nerve in one leg leaving him with numbness. It was hard as a young woman to see my strong (known as vice grips to his friends because of his ability to undo just about anything with the strength of his hands alone) father become incapacitated at such a young age. My father took it in stride and did the best he could within his limitations.
This was the first blow my dad has had to face over the years of his life. In his late 60’s or early 70’s he began to suffer tremors and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Holding a cup of his favorite brew, coffee, was difficult. He fell a lot as well. Not to be held back he and my mother began searching for answers and found out about a new treatment called DBS (deep brain stimulation). My dad just made the age limit and had the procedure done. This procedure required him to be awake on the operating table while areas of the brain were stimulated to see where the stimulators needed to be replaced to best stop the tremors. The surgery was a success and my dad immediately stopped having tremors but has had to have the batteries placed a few times.
The last blow to my dad was a heart attack almost a year and a half ago. Despite the many blows my dad has been dealt, he still is able to joke with us and continue to push forward with determination.
My dad is an amazing man to have gone through so much and still not let it beat him down. When I get down because of my limitations I think of all that my dad has gone through and it encourages me to keep going and to fight. The most difficult part of my illness is that I cannot go into his home without becoming sick. We have to limit our visits (weather permitting) to sitting in his yard or mine or having him suit up and come into my home. When the weather is nice and warm enough in the mornings, we meet at a favorite outdoor cafe for breakfast with the whole family. But we all make sacrifices and do what we have to do.
This week dad went through yet another surgery to replace the batteries on his DBS system. Unfortunately due to my recent flu, I was not able to drive to hospital and support my mother and sister.
I am going to make dad some cookies and take them to him. We will sit outdoors if the weather permits or stand with each of us on one side of the doorway as I hand him his card and cookies.
Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.