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Finding Courage in Adversity

October 13, 2010

I think of my father more often these days. At sixty six, like his father before him, he had a stroke and lost the use of the right side of his body. I admired him at the time for the determination and perseverance he displayed in his recovery efforts, but as a young adult I couldn’t possibly comprehend what he was really going through. I was caught up in my own sorrow at losing the indestructible Dad that I knew and focused on my own life.

Now, as my body and mind heals from the accident and I get a little stronger each day, I have begun to pick up my daily routine.  Hampered by the inability to use my right hand I am often exhausted by the time I complete an ordinary task I used to do so easily such as showering, dressing or fixing lunch. The better I feel, the more I want to do, and consequently the more frustrated I become. I want to rip the whole experience out of my life and go back to the way things were. And then, I think of my Dad.

House Designed & Built by Ed Hoffman Harborcreek, PA circa 1934-1935

As hard as it was for both he and my mother, together they managed to pick up the pieces of their life and keep going. Day by day, week by week, month by month they soldiered on. I never heard my Dad complain. Not once. I knew he’d break down in tears once in a while behind closed doors and was generally more emotional as a result of the stroke. Occasionally when he struggled to do something with his hands that he used to do so easily I’d hear him mutter “damn” when things went awry, as they often did. But he never gave up. He’d just keep at it until the task was done.

He was a doer before and after. At twenty-three, right out of college and during the depression when he struggled to find work, he designed and built, with his own two hands, the house he and my mother and their subsequent five children lived in for twenty years. The house still stands and looks better than ever. After the stroke he continued, in time, to garden, build, and create in any way he could.

Even at eighty-nine he was still trying to improve his condition. The day he died he decided to take the brace off his leg because exercises he was doing was making him stronger and he had read that wearing a brace too much can actually weaken the muscles. He tripped, fell and broke his leg and died post-op. Sadly, he saw the mishap as a failure and not the true success that it was.

So, when I start to feel frustrated and sorry for myself as I begin the challenges of rehab, I think of my Dad and I feel gratitude ~ not for what I’ve lost, but for all that I still have.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010 12:05 am

    What a beautiful legacy your father has left for you and now you are sharing it with others. I am so encouraged by this. Thank you! May you and your husband continue to heal from your injuries. God bless you both!

    • October 14, 2010 12:12 am

      Thank you Diane. We are getting stronger every day and it has brought us closer.

  2. October 14, 2010 1:52 pm

    This poignant tribute made me recall my father who was the person who guided me through life. I find as I grow older his quietly heroic deeds, though small,become like bright beacons of light for me to take comfort from. Dorothy brought this all home with her wonderful tribute to her father. Thanks Dorothy.

  3. carolyn Adams permalink
    October 15, 2010 1:22 pm

    Again an incredible essay. Tears rolled down my face as I could relate to the whole story. Dads are wonderful. They just don’t make them like they use to.

    Take care of that little finger and treat it kindly.
    You just never know how much you need something until you don’t have it any more.


  4. October 18, 2010 12:57 am

    Lovely essay! My father died at age 55 after six months of mounting losses of mobility and strength. It was sad to see a strong man become weak, but his spiritual insights increased as his physical body declined. It was a lesson I have not forgotten. May you continue to get stronger in body, mind, and spirit.

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