As we round out 2020 we all feel the weight of this past year. With one more month to go, if you're like me, your hoping we are at the end of the tunnel. A tunnel filled with uncertainty, sadness, and at times, anger. This post isn't like any other I haven't written here before. Because this year isn't like any other I have ever experienced.
If I was to summarize into a TL;DR I would say that there is a hole in my life while standing under a shining light.
My Dad was paralyzed in a construction accident from the waist down when I was three years old. Throughout my childhood I watched him battle every challenge that came his way. Multiple surgeries and hospital stays, nearly a dozen of them before I turned ten. With each one he recovered and got back to normal, or adjusted into whatever his new normal was. In a word, he ~~is~~ was a warrior.
In February, my Dad was admitted to the hospital for a deadly infection. Something we as a family had become somewhat accustomed to in recent years. But this time was different. The doctor told us that he may not make it out of the operating room. That sudden moment of reality where you don't know if you are going to see a loved one again is gut-wrenching.
He did make it out of the operating room. But he was nowhere close to out of the woods. There was a long road ahead with many surgeries needed to even merge onto the recovery interstate.
A few weeks later my Dad was back in Portland to start the process of getting onto a road to recovery. My parents lived with us for a month or so while they found a place of their own. I struggled with this but now look back on it as the last time I got to be alone with my Dad. I'll always remember staying up late watching documentaries on Woodstock and having him tell me stories of those days.
Then a global pandemic hit.
The world went from laissez-faire to a screeching halt in what felt like a matter of days.
It was like being thrown into a sea of uncertainty with no map that could lead us to shore. It still feels that way a large chunk of the time. But it feels that way for all of us, not just me.
When the pandemic hit that put a pause on any kind of recovery for my Dad and his condition. All elective surgeries and nonlife-threatening operations were paused across the state. Meanwhile, my Dad continued to be in pain and feared that he may never find that new normal he can settle into.
The one thing that kept his spirits high was knowing that he was going to be a Grandpa in September. Not just any Grandpa. He was going to be the Grandpa to our first son. The first boy born in my family since me. There are many days that I think about all of the lessons he taught me. But I also think about all of the lessons he didn't get to teach me.
Over the following months, I would watch my Dad's health decline. Confusion set in at times prompting a variety of emergency room visits. Visits that were exceptionally hard on us as a family as only my Mom was allowed to go in with him because of COVID.
Then on one final visit, we got the reason behind the sharp decline. My Dad was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer. As the doctor said, "it's not a little bit of cancer, it's a lot". It was so far along that there was no treatment. That video call with my parents and the doctor will be forever etched into my memory.
My Dad demanded to go home to spend his remaining time with his family.
A few short days after the diagnosis he passed away with all us by his bed.
To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches - Yann Martel
Those final days were the hardest I have ever experienced. They were filled with laughs and sharing old stories. But always with an undercurrent of what was to inevitably come. There are so many things you want to say and you try to say them all. But it's impossible to not feel like you missed something. It was hard knowing that my Dad was going to pass away without ever getting to meet his grandson. A thought that can still turn me into a puddle of tears today.
A lot can happen in a year, but never could I have ever imagined all the things that this year has brought upon us. At a world scale, we have a global pandemic, political uncertainty, and a country so sharply divided. At a personal level, I have lost my best friend, my Dad, and gained a new best friend in my son. I have watched the very fabric of my reality and day to day life be ripped to pieces. All while rebuilding a new reality and perspective as a Dad.
I am still here just like you are still here.
We keep pushing to make a life out of what we have been given. Even when we don't have the help we need from the outside, we still do what we have to do. Every day we look for the positives, the things that we can gaze at on the horizon that will provide relief. A vaccine, a nice dinner with a partner, a family gathering, a hug from a grandparent, or a hint of normalcy.
We're still pushing, working, and adjusting to what life gives us. Because like my Dad we are warriors.
2020 has been a rollercoaster for everyone, not just for me or my family. Many of us will carry the emotional toll of this past year on our shoulders for many years, if not decades, to come. I know I will. But I also know, despite all the pain, that I will come back a better person. Not just stronger, but more empathetic, passionate, and appreciative of all the things the world has to offer. This past year has taught me how to survive and how much of my life I have taken for granted.
A Dad who was my best friend that I got to watch Formula 1 races with. A nice dinner in a nice restaurant surrounded by other smiling faces. A concert from a favorite band. Or the right to write a blog post like this with the hustle and bustle of the coffee shop surrounding me.
Some of these things we will get back in the months and years to come. Some of these we will never experience again.
This isn't like any of the other posts you will find by me. Because I have been far too exhausted to even begin to restart my life as a developer or entrepreneur. That's what this year and all the events wrapped into it have done. So this post is a view into my world. I believe sharing with others where I am mentally is a way to reset and gain perspective.
Thank you to everyone who has sent their condolences for the loss of my Dad. Thank you to those that have passed along tips, tricks, and enthusiasm for the birth of my son. Thank you to anyone who reads this and finds something to take from it for themselves.
I am still here. You will see many great things from me in the year to come as I will see many great things from you as well.
May you stay safe, stay grounded, and come back swinging in 2021 ✌️
But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. - Martin Luther King, Jr.