Several months ago, my publisher introduced me, via Facebook, to a very special and courageous woman. Her name is Alison Smela. Coincidentally, Alison is a fellow-blogger. You can “follow” her blog, “Alison’s Insights,” at www.alisonsmela.wordpress.com – and I strongly encourage you to do that – because, having survived not one, but two, near death experiences with addictions (alcohol and eating disorders), Alison’s “voice” is important and worthy of great respect and admiration. Last night, I reached out to Alison and asked her permission to “re-publish” one of her “posts,” which I felt offered a unique and deeply personal perspective on dads and daughters. She graciously granted my request:
The 4th Floor (http://alisonsmela.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/the-4th-floor)
A few days ago I went to the hospital to see my sister who is fighting like a champ to overcome an ongoing health issue. By the grace of God she’s on the mend and has a recovery plan in place. Soon she’ll be home to heal more comfortably. I look forward to hearing her recant humorous hospital stories including how the smallest of joys like a quiet room and grocery store tabloid reading made her stay a little easier.
When I went to the main desk to inquire about her room number, the woman behind the desk said, “4th Floor.” I froze.
A little over three years ago, at that same hospital, I ran to that same desk and was told the same thing, “4th Floor.” I remember exiting the elevator, turning right and making a beeline through the double doors of the ICU where I found my Mom looking shocked as my Dad was hooked up to all kinds of machinery. She told me the doctors advised she get my Dad’s affairs in order.
As I sat holding my Dad’s soft frail hand in that room on the 4th Floor, I didn’t know how to begin talking with this man who lovingly saw me through some of my darkest days. I didn’t know in these precious few moments how to begin saying goodbye.
In that quiet space on the 4th Floor, my Dad told me how proud he was of me. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I had been so focused on my life and my recovery I didn’t think about what it must have felt like for a father to see his daughter fight for her life not once, but twice.
My Dad was always proud of his children no matter what crazy, impetuous things we did. He may have paused in wonder, but never stopped being proud. He was, without question, our biggest cheerleader. He knew we’d succeed in whatever we set our minds to. Little did he know, he taught us how.
Even when I was at my lowest of lows, drunk and malnourished, he never gave up on me. I’d like to say I never gave up on me either, but in truth, anyone who danced so close to death as I did at some level wanted to give up. Yet because I’m my Dad’s daughter, I didn’t.
In that moment on the 4th Floor my Dad told me I had the kind of strength he wished he’d had. With tears streaming down my face, I told him I got that strength from him. As those words shifted from my heart to his, I was very proud to be his daughter.
Soon the effects of being removed from life-supportive medications began to take its toll. As I sat there I thought about how he was the one who showed me what never giving up looked like. Yet in that moment as I held his hand, I realized it was now time for him to do so.
When I stepped off the elevator and onto the 4th Floor a few days ago, I turned the other way. I didn’t have to run through the doors of the ICU but instead ran to see my sister who I’m also incredibly proud of. She has weathered a pretty wicked storm these last few months but like the rest of my family, she fought through it. We didn’t talk about giving up on life; we talked about living it.
I now know I don’t have to be afraid of the 4th Floor anymore but right now I sure miss my Dad.
Thank you, Alison.