March 15, 1962: A hardcore Bostonian sports fan becomes the newest member of Planet Earth.
His birth didn’t make any headlines or shatter the trajectory of the planet, but to me, his presence is everything.
On this day, my father was born.
From what I can tell, my dad always wanted to be just that…a father. And on October 30, 1993, yours truly fulfilled his dream (what can I say, I’m just a genie granting wishes here).
Despite the happiness I brought him (l was a real cute baby), life wasn’t going to be a walk through Disney land for either of us.
Soon after my brother was born, my mum, my dad’s wife, changed. Her behaviors became wild and unpredictable. Her body moved and contorted in strange ways. In 2001, it became clear that a healthy relationship between my mum and dad was no longer feasible, despite the love they felt for one another. She wasn’t the same woman he had married. And a few years later, we found out the ways in which this statement was strikingly true.
My mum had custody initially after the divorce. However, when it was clear that she was unable to care for herself, let alone two kids, we all knew something was wrong. Upon my mother’s Huntington’s disease diagnosis, the court gave my dad legal custody and we moved to a new town yet again.
And damn was I bitter about it. At the time, I was unaware of my mum’s disease status. I had yet to hear the words “Huntington’s disease.” I had no idea as to why we were taken away from a school I loved and a mother I felt a desperate need to care for.
If I knew of the stress the diagnosis bore upon my dad, perhaps I would have sucked it up. If I knew my dad’s job change was not a step up the career ladder, but rather one with lower pay and more travel hours in exchange for working at home and keeping custody of his kids, perhaps I wouldn’t have complained. If I understood the lengths my dad literally drove for me and my brother, three hours roundtrip every other weekend, so that my brother and I could visit his ex-wife, perhaps I would have contributed more.
But I did none of those things and yet he managed to be more than I could ever dream of in a father. Not only did he stay despite the challenges, but also he managed to hide all of these sacrifices from us and did everything in his power to give us a happy life full of opportunity.
When I was at-risk for HD, I didn’t want to have children, even if they had no risk of the disease, because I did not want them to have the childhood I did and I also feared that their father wouldn’t stay through the trials that HD throws at families. I wouldn’t want to bring a child into that kind of world.
In many Huntington’s disease families, the significant other leaves. To some extent, it’s understandable. HD is one of the scariest diseases out there, affecting not only the loved one but those doing the loving as well. If you are not stuck to that person by blood (and even if you are), the temptation to leave is great. I’ve heard so many stories of friends forced to become caregivers for parents and siblings in their early teens because their other parent could no longer handle the burden.
Thankfully, I was never one of those teenagers. My dad stayed.
Today, I am a 19 hour plane ride from my dad. I cannot be there in person for this momentous occasion, but I can try to evoke my presence into these words. This Patriots Loving, Sam Adams sipping, ice cream obsessed father is far more than just my dad. Hero is an easy go-to word, but he encompasses so much more and I’m not sure I can ever do him justice in writing.
My father is responsible for where I am today and very much contributed to who I am. And I love me and my life so I am beyond grateful for his role in that.
Happy birthday, Dad.
Thank you for inspiring me to work even harder when I want to give up. Thank you for guiding me through some of the hardest years of my life and celebrating the happiest. Thank you for showing me what love looks like by bestowing it upon me. Thank you for being my dad.
To this birthday and dozens more.