…and I’m about to get very real about it. I always want people to feel happy, so I rarely talk about the sad stuff…you know the truly hard, real life, gut wrenching stuff, but I realized that maybe sharing it can help others know they aren’t alone. I don’t want a pity party. I just want to be real for a second. As I’m facing my own health issues I want everyone to get one thing out of this, to appreciate life. Truly and deeply appreciate it. It’s a beautiful thing once you stop comparing yourself to everyone around you (or on Instagram). Distance yourself from the people who bring you down. Life is too short. You do you. You can’t change others, but remember to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
We didn’t have lots of money growing up (my dad was a teacher and later on became the vice principal and principal of a high school). I grew up in a 1100 sq ft house with one bathroom that we all shared. At the end of the month before payday came I remember times of canned beans and toast. My parents bought our house for $35,000 back in the day and they just happen to buy in the right town. They had no idea that it would end up being a wealthy town in the heart of Silicon Valley. By the time 6th grade rolled around the tech companies like Apple and IBM were growing around us, which meant the housing prices were quickly going up as up. If we still lived in the tiny little house, that didn’t even have heating or air conditioning, it would be worth around $1.7 million. Isn’t that insane? That my friends, is what the tech industry did to my amazing tiny little town.
My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer a few days before Thanksgiving my sophomore year of high school. I was 15 years old. I was scared, but my parents convinced me that it would be ok and he would do chemo. He did do the chemo, but it didn’t work as well as everyone hoped. I turned 16 on February 4th, 1997 and he came with me to get on drivers license that day. A week after that he left work for good. He needed to do much stronger chemo and it was taking a toll on his body. It was all downhill. He lost so much weight and was around 98 lbs. My mom and I would take turns at night when his machines would beep. I remember this one night after a new nurse had come to the house and put the IV in a different place on his arm and as a result the line kept kinking and the machine kept beeping all night. I would still get up and go to high school every morning. Not going to sugar coat it. It was hard.
By summer time he could barely walk. By July he was talking in very hushed tones. He would tell me words of wisdom as I sat on his bed. One time I I told him that it just wasn’t fair. And his response still has stuck with me. He said “Emy, life isn’t fair. You are dealt a hand and just have to play the cards that you are dealt. Some people are just dealt better cards.” He never got angry or had a pity party for himself.
My father lost his battle with cancer August 23rd, 1997. He was 49 years old.
This was 3 days before I had to start my junior year of high school. I could barely get out of bed. It was hard going back to school and trying to stay focused, but the hardest part were the whispers in the hallway and some friends that were no longer around. I would walk out of class and hear people whisper to each other “that’s the chick who’s dad died”. It would’ve been so much nicer if they just came up to me instead and said “I’m sorry to hear about your dad”. Now that I am a parent I see the importance on educating our kids on loss and how to cope with it and be there for other who are going through it. I understand though that we were kids and this was hard, so the natural instinct was to stay away from things that were hard.
My life was forever turned upside down. I miss my dad everyday, but love telling Little Monkey stories of her grandpa Tom. My dad was big in the education reform for California and getting equal education for bilingual students. His memorial service had thousands of people attend and still to this day, 20 years later, I have past students of his come up to me and tell me stories about him and what a big impact he had on their lives. I love that so much.
The moral of this story is to appreciate your life, have compassion for others, and realize that life isn’t fair so stop comparing and start living. Be the kind of person that after you leave this earth people will go up to your kids and tell them how kind, funny, and amazing you were.