We all see those little girls who are connected to their father’s hip, and no one could ever compare to him in her eyes. That was never me. I was never a ‘daddy’s girl’. I wasn’t close with my mom either. They both always talked about their “independent little girl”. For a while I took pride in that, but as I started to grow up it became less special to be so independent. I would hear about girls’ excitement to go shopping with their moms or their anticipation for the Daddy Daughter Dance at school.
The biggest thing I had to look forward to with my parents was traveling to play softball. Even there I would come to realize how the relationship I shared with my parents was more business-like than every other girl at the tournaments. You know those parents who scream at their kids after they’ve made an error in the game? Not my parents.
We had our talk in the car like the one a boss has with an employee. “You were opening up your stance.” “You fell asleep on that runner.” “Your throw was off on that pick off – should have had that one.” If there was one thing to comment on, then my parents would have a handful of comments. I would watch the girls leave with their dad’s arm slung around their shoulders wishing my parents would do that, but it never happened.
I would go through high school with my parents’ list of expectations that would be met – no exceptions.
Throughout the first 2 years of high school, our conversations strictly pertained to my softball career; if I was on track to be recruited, what skills I had to work on, if my grades were up to par, and anything else it would take for to me to get a division I scholarship. On September 1, 2010, I had just started my junior year and had received my first emails from colleges that were ready to meet and to make offers. This was the first of many big days in the recruitment process. I had a handful of division I schools interested. You’d think this would be a time to celebrate, but it was just time to talk about what our next move was. Over the next few months, I would travel from school to school and from coach’s office to coach’s office while my parents seemed more like my agents trying to find the best offer. A few months later, I called the Providence College softball coach to receive her final offer.
As the conversation went on, my dad sat there waiting to hear the number. However before I could get it out of my mouth, he snatched the phone out of my hand. He covered the phone to mute the sound and told me to let him talk before I screwed it up. He negotiated prices for the next five minutes before handing back the phone to me. In the most anticlimactic way, I made my verbal commitment to a division I school. My dad patted me on the back and walked out of the room. The next year of high school would fly by with plenty of bragging from my parents and congratulations from relatives and even strangers, until one day everything was stopped dead in its tracks. Three out of the four arteries leading directly into my dad’s heart were blocked. The doctors said he could have died at any time in the past five years. We were told he would have to have a double bypass surgery immediately, which I quickly became aware was no joke. My mom began to break down when she heard the news and my two younger siblings looked at me to see my reaction. In that split moment, the past five years flashed before my eyes.
All the talks, games, car rides, dinners, and school events could have been without my dad. Instead of wishing that my dad would put his arm around my shoulder after a game, I would have been wishing he had just been able to see me play one more game. I would have loved to hear him criticize my batting stance one last time. A pat on the back would have definitely sufficed as a congratulations from him. The next day reality hit that this could be the last time I would talk to my dad. He called me over and said, “I know I’ve never taken the time to tell you, but you are my pride and joy. You’re my superstar. I never doubted for a second that you would live your dream, and no matter what happens I can’t wait to watch your continued success whether it’s from here or a little bit further away.” These were words I had been working so hard to hear and these were words I’d never forget for as long as I live.
Those few sentences would more than make up for his harsh demeanor the past 16 years. Before I had time to fully understand what my dad had just said to me, the priest from the hospital came into the room. He asked if we would like him to pray with us before my dad went into surgery. My dad had made it clear to everyone that he did not believe in a higher power, but before anyone could object my dad accepted the priest’s offer. As I reached for my dad’s hand, I looked up to see tears streaming down his face. I had never seen my dad cry before that day. I squeezed his hand. I had never really prayed for anything before, but that day I asked not to be the girl who didn’t know what she had until it was gone. I remember thinking I would never ask for anything again if He could just do this one thing, not just for me, but my whole family.
In the hours we waited during his surgery, I came to realize I hadn’t been appreciating my parents for everything they had done for me and had given me. My parents had practically given up their lives to allow me to pursue my dream. I also realized that all those talks and criticism they had given me were them making me better and never letting me quit on myself. I had absolutely no reason to be jealous of anyone else’s relationship with their dad when mine had done more than most of them. When my dad woke up after his surgery I spoke to God for the second time in my life. I thanked him a million times that it wasn’t too late to appreciate everything my dad had done for me. Never again would I take something as special as my dad for granted.