My first tattoo. Taken from the Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” This is for you, mom & dad. For the invaluable lessons you’ve taught me about perseverance, life & love.
About 30 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His vision and balance have slowly deteriorated over the years, changing his, and my entire family’s life. He was forced to end his career as a journalist for a national entertainment magazine. He was interviewing celebrities like Harrison Ford and Matthew Broderick, and going to events like the VMAs with his press pass. All of that changed with one diagnosis.
At this point, my mom and dad were already engaged, and by the time my sister was born, he was ready to take on the role of stay-at-home dad while my mom worked full time. She was a journalist too. But in order to see my sister and me more often, she ditched her unpredictable schedule as a reporter and became a paralegal.
Everything my parents had worked for was gone. But for them, this wasn’t the end. This was only the beginning. This was the beginning of turning a life of pain and struggle into a life of happiness and determination.
Over the years, I’ve watched my dad’s disease worsen. I’ve watched his walking turn to limping, his limping turn to falling. Watching someone I love fall helplessly to the ground is something that I wish I wasn’t familiar with; it kills me inside each and every time. But he never stops picking himself up. That’s what I love most about my dad. He doesn’t let anything stand in his way.
In 1994, he even won the “Father of the Year” award from the National MS Society, which honored him for the way he balanced being a stay-at-home dad and a journalist (through his determination, he was able to find a job as a writer for a local newspaper, and now works from home). He would not let this disease stop him from doing what he loves. The award attracted a lot of attention in our area, and even involved going to Washington, D.C. to meet and receive a plaque from former president Bill Clinton. It was an experience I’ll always cherish.
More important than any award or plaque he has received, though, are the lessons that he, and my mom, have taught me throughout my life. It would’ve been easy to just give up, to surrender to the disease. But because of my parents’ strength, they moved forward and created an amazing life for my sister and me. Through it all, there have been tears, there have been fights, and there have been scars. MS hasn’t won though. My family has.
Life has knocked my parents down time and time again, but they’re perseverance is never-ending. They always stand up the eighth time.