Clean up on aisle 12

My daughter waited until the very last-minute on a Sunday evening to tell me that she needed knee highs and cleats for soccer tryout the following day. I was annoyed to say the least but this is my job right? My child’s comfort and needs have to take priority over mine. Nevermind that she had all weekend to get her soccer gear. My husband, daughter and I piled into the car and set off to the only store open on a Sunday at 10:30 pm that could possibly have the needed items…Wal-Mart

The store was relatively empty which was a bonus. I hate wasting time so I ask a sales clerk if he knew whether or not they carried soccer gear, he says no. I turned the corner of that aisle expecting to head home with a very disappointed daughter but there they were….All purpose cleats, knee highs and shin guards. (Score!)

As my daughter tried on her cleats I walked around to the next aisle and found myself with a very familiar sight, male orthopedic shoes, the kind with the Velcro straps. I instantly had the strangest reaction. I felt like someone was standing on my chest, I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t take a step, my nose tickled as my eyes got watery, it was very intense and as I tried to quickly sort through these feelings I kept reminding myself of where I was. I wondered if I was having some kind of attack. My husband walked by me and instantly knew that I was having issues.  He looked at me and as I was about to say something he quickly says, “I know”, and pulls the end of the cart prompting me to follow and exit the aisle…he knew that if I had to actually explain the look on my face I would lose it.

These were the same types of shoes my dad wore for quite some time. These were also the last items I remember placing in the bin before I donated his belongings. He passed away 2 years ago after an exhausting battle with several ailments most of them brought on by himself. I still remember getting the phone call from a random nurse telling me that my father was asking for me. Asking for my help. He was transported from a hospital to a hell hole of a nursing home somewhere in the city.  As I walked through this dirty, infested, state run facility, I remember thinking to myself. “No one deserves to live their last days in a place like this, not even you dad.” And so I charged on with the responsibility of getting him in a better home with better care. It wasn’t easy and it was very stressful, but i would like to make something clear. It wasn’t an altruistic spirit that led me down this path. I did it for me not for him. I did it because it was the right thing to do and I knew I would regret not making an effort to alleviate his pain.

Once I had him moved to a better home they went from amputating his left foot(due to type 2) to amputating his right leg shortly there after. I found myself running around for the better part of 2009. Chasing down physicians for records so that he may receive appropriate treatments, emptying out his apartment, putting his affairs which were a complete mess in order etc…All the while working full-time and taking care of my family. I was exhausted and resentful; because I did more for him in 1 year then he did for me in a lifetime.

When my dad died, I did not shed a tear. It didn’t hurt and I wasn’t sad. That in itself though was sad; I felt guilty that I did not feel sadness, that bothered me… still does sometimes.

I had mourned the relationship with my dad long ago. I was very young when he left. With all of this said, I have some happy memories. I remember being hoisted onto his shoulders and playing drum beats on his bald head as he walked through the crowds at Puerto Rican Festivals or parades. I remember my little hand in his big hand as he walked me across the busy streets. I remember the smell of his after shave and cologne. All of these things were very real to me in this moment of internal chaos.  As soon as my parents started having issues I became a pawn in their war of the roses. My dad definitely used our relationship as a weapon and that left me in a bad place when the house of cards fell and he was nowhere to be found. This is where a whole different kind of life started for me.

All of these thoughts flooded in and out. It took minutes but it felt like a lifetime, right there on aisle 12 at Wal-Mart.

I reconciled all of these thoughts and emotions later that night and cried. Truly cried, with a heavy heart and a runny nose. I cried because now I mourned the loss of something that could never be. The fact was that at this point even if I wanted to give him another chance I couldn’t because it was final. Death is final.

Fathers, be good to your daughters. Fathers help mold the future of women in so many ways. The kind of men they are attracted to and the relationships that they have are usually based on their relationships with their dads. Daughters are part of your legacy too, not just the boys! More importantly, your daughter might be the one encumbered with the task of taking care of you when you need it most. Are you sure your daughter will be there ready and willing to take on that task?

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