Words From My Father

My father always gave great, funny, and completely ridiculous advice…but mixed in there were a few good ones.

One of those good ones was about scars. He told me this one when I was really young, I was crawling on the floor in Montgomery Ward (yea, that store) and I crawled over the metal strip that holds down the carpet as the floor transitions from carpet to flooring. I was hiding underneath the racks of clothes, just being a crazy, happy, care free kid. My knee struck the the metal strip and cut a gash so severe in my leg I was taken to the hospital (Riverside Walter Reed, Newport News VA).  They patched me up, but my father didn’t want me to get stitches, he thought it’d make me scared and the doctors and nurses told him that the cut would heal okay on it’s own if they kept it clean and covered.  As you can imagine I was a crying mess….it hurt!

Dad and I 1983

Dad and I 1983

When I got into High School, years later, I was always so self conscious about my scar on my knee (that is still very visible today).  No one else had a scar like it and I had other things going that made me stand out enough, such as, moussaka left overs, frizzy greek hair, olive skin, and homemade clothes (which I now value more than most things), I didn’t need this scar.

I mentioned my feelings about my scar one day when I was having rebellious teenage drama and my daddy told me these words:

Scars make the best tattoos, no two are alike, and they tell a story better than ink ever could. Be proud of the scars you have and the story you tell, they make you who you are and whenever you feel like you aren’t the same as everyone else. It’s because you aren’t, your stronger and more beautiful and you have the scars to prove it.

When I saw you the other day – with your epic Craniectomy scar, I thought of these words. I smiled, because they came from my dad, but also because they are true.

b3b001715686b8677dbdbf58225279a6

You’ll have scars, but you will heal. My daddy always said scars make the best tattoos, no two are alike, and they tell a story better than ink ever could. Your story is amazing, and you are bigger than all of this….you always have been. I love you, keep fighting my sweet Kimmy girl….just keep fighting.

Your eyes…

On Monday (February 24, 2014) I came up to visit you.  Day 13. I got there a little late because I had left work a little later than I would have liked to.  Your family, as always, was gathered in the waiting room as visitors trickled in and trickled out of your room.  I waited patiently.  I wanted to see you, but only if you were ready and able for more visitors.  Me seeing you is selfish, you need your rest.  I waited.  Scotty eventually returned to the waiting room after sitting with you and asked me if I’d seen you yet.  I replied “no, but that’s okay, I can wait”.  I really just needed some courage.  He told me to go ahead go back to your room. So I took a deep breath and I walked in.

You were drowsy since it was now about 7:30p and the nurses were going through their usual shift change routine, checking you over, and getting you comfy.  They went ahead and gave you a bit more pain medicine because your heart rate was getting a little high, and they wanted you to rest.

I put on my gown and moved quietly to the corner to stay out of the way.  Once the dust settled I was by your side.  I held your hand and told you I was there, that I was happy to see you, and if you needed to rest and sleep to do so and I’d be right there by your side anyway.

You opened your eyes, and you looked directly into mine.  Your expression was fear, you seemed scared. I squeezed your hand and told you this: “Your baby girl is doing great and you are too.  No matter what happens neither I or anyone else will leave your side.  You will overcome this and you, Scotty, and that little girl will have the life you always wanted.”

After those words, your expression changed….it went from fear to sadness.  Your eyes softened as you looked at me and tears formed in your eyes.  I wish I could give you an answer, I wish I could tell you why this happened and why you are in so much pain.  I wish I could take your place so you could have the life you’ve dreamed of having. I can’t.

I don’t have an answer…but I do have a solution.  That solution is growing stronger everyday…your little girl, she has fought this battle along with you…you need her and she needs you.  Neither one of you can give up because of the other.  I told you those words and you seemed to relax.  I put my hand on your belly, and while you were looking at me that little girl kicked so hard my hand moved.  I know you know I was there to feel it…after that moment you quietly closed your eyes and rested.

You, 24 Weeks.

You, 24 Weeks.

I know you’ll be okay.  I saw it in that moment that we shared.

I stayed a little while longer, just you and me, everyone else had gone. I treasured that time alone with you.  You were at peace and at the same time I was too.

I drove home that Monday evening at 9pm, and the only thing I could see was your eyes.

I cried the entire way, thanking anyone that would listen for that moment with you and for all the moments we’ll have in the future when you get better.

Every time I think of you, all the air leaves my body. I’m breathless and full of panic, then I think of those eyes and my heart beat stills and my breath returns.

My positive of the day (until you return to your command) – was about that moment we shared.  I can’t wait to tell your little girl all about it.

I love you.  Keep on fighting. 

[Memory] 4 x 4 Birthday Party

I remembered an old story this morning…maybe one of our first trips together (we’ll see…). It was a trip we took in my 1992 Red Jeep Wrangler (which I still have today). We drove it to Williamsburg, for my little cousins birthday party in their neighborhood clubhouse (Windsor Forest). We were so excited to hang out with these younger kids. I still had the system in my Jeep so we haphazardly thumped our way down the road and pulled up fashionably late (we were probably lost).

We showed those kids all the “coolest” dances like the Chattahoochee, the Watermelon Crawl and of course, Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’.  We watched little Chelsea Perkins do the worm, which she still does today (when you’ve got a good party trick I reckon you stick with it). 

My aunt was so happy to have us there and my cousin thought her party was extra cool because her college cousin and her friends came to her birthday party. They all thought we’d sacrificed a Saturday night for them, little did they know we were geekin’ at how cool we thought they thought we were (some things don’t change)!

Purpose

You’ve always shared your story.  You shared your story as a way to help you cope with the ups and downs, and every little struggle and hurdle that you faced; but you also shared your story to give others a feeling of companionship during their darkest moments.

There are others with a story like yours.  With a friend like me, that believes to her core that one day you’ll wake up and read this. Know that this story was to help me help you and help others that are supporting their family members and friends throughout their struggle.

This is not intended to be a story of your triumphs or of your failures. Nor is it intended to be a story of your struggles or my hopes.  What I want from this, its purpose, is to provide comfort to you as you heal, share your story with your daughter, remember some really great times we had, and anticipate the times we will have in the future.

I will tell your story in this blog, from my perspective, for you.

I will tell everyone how we got here.

Then and most importantly I will remind us both of the memories that lay deeply hidden in a twelve year friendship.
And when you wake up, we will continue to share your story, make new memories, and maybe because of all this say the F word a couple times.

I love you and you inspire me. Your strength through your struggles reminds me to be strong.  The love you have always shown for others in the midst of your troubles makes me strive to be a better person everyday.

Thank you for picking me up and taking me on this journey with you.  It is not, at this moment, what I would have wanted for you…but I know in time it will be.  One day you will find happiness and a full heart with the pitter patter of a little girls feet (and the dog, and the cat!) as you cuddle with your incredibly supportive husband and put this nightmare behind you.  Until that day comes, I will be with you every step of the way, doing everything I can.

…and the story continues…

The Beginning

We met one morning in late summer / early fall. I was starting my freshman year at Longwood College in Farmville, VA and so were you.  I arrived earlier in the week to get settled and properly orientated to my job as a dining hall employee (I had big goals and aspirations…).  I was sleeping peacefully (similar to how you are now) when someone opened the door with a key and walked on in.  It was you, your mother Karen, your father Gerard, and your younger brother Ryan.  I met you at the door, looking absolutely stunning….in my pajamas.

I’m not sure what happened in that moment, it could have been the pajamas or the anticipation of life after high school, or a fresh start, anything really, but in that moment we met and I knew we’d be great friends. You had pretty blonde hair at the time and you were the skinniest girl I’d ever seen (we raise some hearty girls in Mathews County) – but you were so friendly, you hugged me as soon as you walked in and introduced yourself as “Kim Hasenfus”.  I thought to myself, “this girl is pretty cool (I’ll never be able to remember or spell her last name) – one down and two more to go”!

I woke up and shook off the sleepy and got excited about helping you move your stuff into our new “home” – mind you this “home” was split with two other girls, for a total of four; along with a bathroom split with four more girls, for a total of eight.  The only way to arrange our room so that it was suitable for four people was to have bunk beds.  I had claimed the bottom bunk on the left side of the room (I don’t like sleeping in front of doors – you’d later learn that about me) and you thought the bunk above mine would be a perfect place for your navy blue comforter that had glow in the dark stars on it.  (I had glow in the dark stars on the ceiling in my bedroom back at my mom’s – so that was other reason for me to instantly befriend you).

That day was exhausting, two other girls moved in, we had to split a closet (ouch!) unpack our clothes, setup our email accounts, laptops, and workspaces (in the shared study) and say goodbye to life known as “BC” (Before College).

That night we ate dinner together, and we continued to do so every night after that for the next four years…