The Men in the Mirror: The Difference Between My Dad and Me
I took a shower yesterday and then had a hard look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like everything I saw. Later, I was helping my wife clean our living room and I saw a photo of my dad I had taken years ago. I didn’t like what I saw in it, either.
When I looked at my dad’s picture, I saw a man who could’ve been whatever he wanted to be, and who probably didn’t live up to his potential because he feared for his health and wasn’t confident in himself. I remember him as a man who did just enough to get by.
That impression of him has always stuck in my mind, and I have tried to get my children to understand that just getting by is like doing just enough to survive — but not enough to be fully alive.
My parents split up when I was about 10. My dad and I kept in touch over the years, but we lost contact about 20 years ago. He moved frequently, so it was hard to find him, but he had a cousin who seemed to know where he was every time he’d go off the grid. So, we’d be able to reconnect.
I think part of the reason he did just enough to get by was because he had epilepsy and felt like he needed to play it safe. But my dad wasn’t the only one living with a serious medical condition. My mother suffered from congestive heart failure, diabetes, and asthma.
Seeing myself in my father
But it’s my dad’s health problems, and what they did to him, that haunt me a little.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see my father looking back at me. I see the creep of age and reminders to remain active — graying hair, flabby arms, and a small potbelly where there was once a trim, athletic figure. And I see the advance of my disease — scars from chest tubes to treat two incidents of spontaneous pneumothorax and from cuts to treat crepitus. Recently, I’ve had to add a few more doctors to my medical team, and I’m now being treated for pulmonary hypertension.
I see my father, but there’s something I don’t see when I look in the mirror: I don’t see in me a man doing just enough to get by.
Instead, I see someone more determined to enjoy his life with his family and friends. I see a man who refuses to give up on himself because of his health or what the future might have in store for him. I see a man committed to not letting his health condition take his life away from him.
Maybe if my father saw what I see in the mirror, he would’ve been more inspired. I’ll continue to be inspired and not deflated by what I’ve been through with sarcoidosis. I intend to do a lot more than just get by.
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