Danielle Wolfe, Division 3, College junior #ws18e-s2d3

Is that your grandpa? Are you sure you’re not adopted? These were the questions that plagued me throughout my first sixteen years of life. But, am I ashamed of my family background, not in the slightest. My dad had me at the tender age of sixty two, which made me the baby of the family to sisters that were in their forties. Thus, making me my parent’s “miracle”.

At the age of eight, my father underwent emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery, and was pronounced dead twice that eventful evening. I’m still haunted by witnessing my mom’s distraught upon learning the love of her life, her best friend, and the father to her only child after having difficulty conceiving was being taken from her. He miraculously recovered that night, but I knew the effects would be everlasting.

No longer was I treated like the “baby”. That attention was diverted to my dad. While other children visited their friends after school, I was condemned to visiting my father every day at a nursing home, and then assisting my mom at another nursing home where she was employed because she could not afford a babysitter. Instead of befriending people my own age, my friends consisted of the elderly. Instead of playing on a playground, I was playing bingo and charades. Most kids crave attention and resort to acting out to obtain it, but I became neutral to it, When I was around family and strangers, they always labeled me as a “good child” because I behaved and followed their directions, little did they know that I understood the burden placed upon my mom by my father’s ailments, which is why I avoided being as problematic as possible. The slight attention that I did receive stemmed from my education. Instead of garnering notice through acts of defiance, I decided to gain it through my schooling. For fun, I engulfed myself in reading for hours and hours on end to partially escape the reality of my own life , but also for the enjoyment and increased knowledge. This was due to my parents not having the time to help me keep track of my grades. However, people only regarded my passion for reading as “she just likes to read”.

My father eventually came home possessing only a twenty percent heartbeat. He lived with me until I was fifteen , before returning back to a nursing home, just two weeks before my sixteenth birthday. This would be the last time that he would make it out of the nursing home. Luckily, I adapted back to the routine that I was once accustomed to. Instead of going to football games or school concerts, I was going to visit my dad and listen to the hymns from his CD player that filled the sterile halls. Instead of going to parties on friday nights, I spent them with my dad helping him read the cards for the resident’s weekly game of poker. Everyday after school my mom and I would visit him, and on the very rare occasion that we didn’t visit him, he’d call us multiple times throughout the day just to tell us how much he loved us and missed being with us. He taught me that love is everlasting, and no matter the immense pain being felt, love will always be expressed.

But, I don’t hate a single moment of my experience. I learned not only to care for others, but to become more independent myself. From keeping track of my own education to having to make my own dinner at times this taught me to focus on myself, while still being able to assist others. This event also influenced my determination to succeed by testing my perseverance. I would and will not allow myself to be defined by my circumstances, I continue to yearn to accomplish something great. I may have grown up a little too fast as many may perceive, but I am still maturing into the best person that I could possibly be, but without this life changing experience, I do not believe I would be the person I am today to allow me to accomplish that.
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