Joe's Story

For a long time, my Dad has been one of my heroes. I know it’s cliché, but it’s the truth.  I’ve never told anyone, because I’m embarrassed about it, and I feel like he would be just as embarrassed.  I’ve always felt the goal in life was to be happy, and while he liked a good grumble, he was always happy overall. He worked hard, and gave us plenty of opportunity to grow ourselves.  Both him and my Mom spoiled us by giving us a loving home, and I count myself lucky for that.

When my Dad had his accident, I didn’t fully understand.  I knew it was serious, but I didn’t know it was deathly serious.  Geneviève called me on a Wednesday night, and told me he had an accident in Hawaii and that he had broke his neck, and he was in the hospital.  I thought that was it, there was an accident, he’s in hospital, and he’ll get better.  What I didn’t know was that he had had CPR performed on him for half an hour and was barely clinging on to life.  I stayed at school for 6 weeks before I went home to visit him and Mom: 2 weeks to finish the term, 2 weeks of exams, and 2 weeks for an engineering tour mandatory for my degree.  It wasn’t until I went home that I fully understood the seriousness of the situation and the extent of his injuries.

              It seemed then and still seems like every time I talk to my Dad I learn more about what happened and his condition.  Like when I learned he nearly died on the flight home.  Or that he was clinically dead for 2 minutes and brought back to life. Every time I hear these facts, I realize how much more scared I should have been, but wasn’t because I didn’t fully understand.  I wonder how I would have felt if he had actually died, because I never seriously entertained the possibility that he might.  I was fully under the impression that while it was serious, he would survive.  Could I have forgiven myself for not going home right away? I think so, since it was him encouraging me to finish my schooling first, although I am thankful that he was too stubborn to die.

              These thoughts do not enter my mind to often, but sometimes they do, and sometimes they are too much.  Once, I was watching a comedy special called “Three Mics”, where the comedian would switch between telling corny one liners, normal stand-up, and emotional stories about his life.  The story he finished with was one where his father told him on his deathbed that he never really loved him or his siblings.  At this point, I started crying.  It was hard.  My parents have never shown anything but love for us, and to think that there was anything else is foreign to me.  Even from his hospital bed, my Dad was furiously blinking out congratulations on passing my exams.

A way of coping for me has been making jokes at my Dad’s expense.  Once, I was setting up my Dad’s iPad so he could watch a show, and I put it on his hand and told him to hold it while I got the stand set up.  He got a good chuckle out of that one.  Another time, my friends asked how he was doing and I told them that “He’s still kicking and screaming.  Well, screaming at least.” Sometimes I feel like these are made in poor taste, but I think he would understand.

Today, my Dad is still one of my heroes.  Even if it were solely because of his sheer stubbornness to live a good life with his condition, but it’s not just him who inspires me anymore.  If I want to look for stubbornness (or determination), I just have to look at the rest of my family.  My Mom, for living with my Dad and dealing with the daily horrors that is living and caring for a quadriplegic.  And to my siblings, for living their lives to the fullest even while my Dad was in the hospital, because I can tell you that it is hard some days. But seeing my dad and my family continue to succeed and make the best of a bad situation helps me get through those days, and continue on to the good days.