I suppose after you read my Mother’s Day letter to mom, you knew this one was coming. Surprise or not, Happy Father’s Day!
I was going to say “thank you for being a great dad!” but that would be stating the obvious. Great doesn’t even begin to cover it. Over the last 10 years, as the symptoms of my condition, Miyoshi myopathy, have manifested and taken over my life, you have stepped up to the plate in ways that neither of us could have imagined. I have had to rely on you far more than I ever expected, but instead of resenting it, you have embraced the challenge wholeheartedly.
I know it has not been an easy time for you, watching me get weaker when I’m supposed to be in the prime of my life. In addition to the emotional burden, you have had to take on a significant physical burden as well. You do most of the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively), and have sacrificed for me greatly in order to help me rise above this disease and achieve my goals. You have exhibited all the admirable qualities of an MDA dad – you were thrust into an unexpected situation, but you’ve always sought solutions rather than accepting limitations. My condition changed all of us, but like mom, you have adapted and grown from the challenge.
I know we sometimes clash – we are both very strong-willed after all – but deep down I know that it’s all out of love, and is a reflection of us both trying to adapt to my ever-changing needs. I know I grow frustrated with you on occasion when you push me around in my wheelchair in public (such as when I see a bump in the sidewalk or your “driving” is a little more aggressive than I’d like), but that’s not your fault, that’s my own. It’s been hard to relinquish my independence, but I like to think I’m getting better at being more patient. (Please don’t laugh too hard at that last sentence.)
Although my patience may always be a work in progress, you have taught me many valuable skills in life that have come in handy as I deal with my new reality. Growing up, you always preached to me the virtues of responsibility and discipline. You’ve taught me how to be resourceful, and the value of a good plan. In a world where my strength changes from day to day, all of these attributes have been essential in helping me stay one step ahead of my disease, and plan for contingencies when something unexpected arises.
Like mom, you have always been supportive of my goals, even when they sometimes seem like a stretch at first. When I decided to quit my job and go to business school, I wasn’t sure how you’d take it. I knew you would have reservations, not because you didn’t think I could do it, but because you didn’t want me to burn out. Instead of deciding not to pursue school, we worked together on a plan where you would help me logistically as much as possible. And we made it work! All my classmates were excited to meet you and mom at graduation, for I always made sure to tell them how much you guys helped me behind the scenes. They were in awe of your sacrifice and dedication.
Today, you continue to be a major help to me. Although I never expected to move home last year, I did, and although it’s a minor detour on my journey, I am happy to have you as a “roommate”. As I navigate this phase between walking and a wheelchair, I’ve had to rely on you more than ever, especially getting out of chairs and getting up after falls. I’m always afraid I’m going to throw out your back, but I’m sure you’d rather throw out your back than have to drive in New York City traffic again. (Speaking of sacrifices….)
I know you don’t like Father’s Day gifts. You have made it clear by now you are not a big t-shirt guy, so I hope this letter will bring a smile to your face instead, once you’ve had your morning coffee of course. Above all though, the best gift I can give you is to make sure that I become the best possible version of myself. Because of the support of you and mom, I know that the only limits I have to worry about are the limits to my dreams.
Happy Father’s Day, dad. Love ya!
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