My little 5-year-old heart filled with joy as I peered out the living room window and saw my dad’s car pulling in the driveway. I barely let him get through the door, place his lunchbox on the counter and take off his work boots, before I was yelling, “Daaaaaad.” I sat on the couch holding a little pink comb in my left hand and wearing a huge smile on my face as dad walked into the room. He knew the routine. He sat next to me and allowed me to comb his hair. This was something I started doing when I was three. I can vividly remember doing this and the feel of his fine and smooth, ashy-colored hair.
This is my earliest memory of my father. Growing up, I would describe my dad– William Franklin Cover III– as a very hard-working, dedicated husband and father. His work ethic provided our family with a wonderful life and allowed my mom to stay home and take care of me during all of my health hurdles. He is honest, loving and very supportive. The kind of father that my friends in high school would want to talk to about their boy problems. I could tell him anything. Still to this day, we call him an “All-American Man.” He is outgoing and will talk to anyone. He is not afraid to go up to anyone and introduce himself. I get my outgoingness from him. I can’t think of a better role model of a man for me to grow up with. He has always surrounded me with unconditional love and respect. I was not blessed with good health, but I have been blessed with wonderful parents and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I sit here almost 3,000 miles away from this amazing man, but if I close my eyes, I can see his strong green eyes that got me through my darkest days. Countless days I stared into those eyes to give me strength to hang on and fight to see another day. I often wonder if he knows how powerful his love and support is? I wipe tears from my eyes and my heart aches as I type these words for the pain that I have put my parents through. For the months on end that they spent in the hospital wondering if their daughter would ever get better.
One of those days was the winter of 2001. We were at Johns Hopkins Hospital and it was a freezing winter day. I had not seen the light of day or inhaled a breath of fresh air in quite awhile. No matter what it took, my dad was determined to change that. I remember him making me brush my teeth and putting me in a wheelchair. He wrapped me up with every white hospital blanket he could find. Without permission, he wheeled me onto the balcony of my hospital floor. The only thing not covered by the blankets was my eyes. It was freezing; it was rejuvenating and something I will never forget. I appreciate my dad for all of the sacrifices he has made and for doing whatever it took to give me a mini-escape from reality.
The beginning of this year, my dad and I were at Johns Hopkins for an appointment for my mom. Dad and I were taking a walk around the hospital. He took me out a particular door and pointed to the right. I looked up and saw a balcony. It took me a second and I looked at dad and by the look in his eyes, I knew it was THE balcony. I had not seen this balcony since that day I was a sick girl all wrapped up in blankets. Our eyes welled with tears and we held each other tight. We stood arm-inarm looking up at the balcony. No words were spoken, just an overwhelming amount of shared love for each other, knowing how far we have come.
I write this to thank my father and all of the caregivers out there. All of you go through just as much–if not more– as the patient. I often think it is easier to be the patient, as I know a caregiver can feel helpless at times. However, the support and love from caregivers is the best medicine a patient could ask for.
With the holidays fast approaching, it is a great time of year to reflect on all that we are grateful for. I am thankful for so much, and especially for my parents. They are flying from PA to CA this Sunday for a two-week visit with me and my husband, Noah. I can’t wait to see them and enjoy the simple pleasures. Like being able to hug them whenever I want, sit on the couch with mom sharing one blanket, touch foreheads with them, stick my nose in my mom’s soft cheeks, and laugh together ‘til our stomachs hurt.