- My Daddy, who didn't speak a word of English when he came to the US when he was nine-years-old, overcame poverty by learning a new language, studying super hard (working three jobs while going to college) and eventually becoming an Anesthesiologist. He gave up that practice to move to the mountains / Lake Tahoe and be a General Practitioner / Family Doctor.↩
- ... though I have been told that as much as I loved my Daddy, he loved me so much more. While it's incomprehensible to me that there is even deeper love than what I feel for him, I know this is the profound love a parent has for their child. ↩
I knew coming to Taos again would be extremely difficult.
Years ago, my beloved Daddy passed away on this mountain after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest while skiing. It was a beautiful bluebird day, and he was so happy to be back at Taos. He loved everything about being here.
It was his first run of the day, and he went down while warming up. Within minutes, ski patrol was on him, doing everything they could for 45 minutes to revive him. It was considered a successful, live rescue as they got him off the mountain with a heartbeat. But it was too late for his brain, and hours after being transported to the hospital in town, my brilliant, wonderful, amazing, awesome, incredible Daddy and best friend passed away.
I got the call when he got to the hospital. One can only imagine the shock. It was less than 24 hours prior that I took him to the airport, kissed him goodbye and told him how much I loved him. I spoke to him by phone after he arrived in Taos, and I was relieved to know he got in safely and was all settled in for the night. He was so excited to get on the slopes first thing the next morning.
When they told me he was in a coma, it was hard to comprehend what that meant. My naïve self thought he was peacefully sleeping, just like how they show it on TV (I assure you it was the supreme opposite), but I knew the situation was dire. I called our family and told them the news. How bad is it, they asked? In order to comfort me, they responded with all would be okay. My response: “no, you don't understand. This is the day I've dreaded my entire life.”
You see, words cannot describe the relationship between me and my Daddy. We were beyond close. He was my rock, and I was his baby. We spent so many wonderful times laughing, teasing each other, being super silly, and of course, skiing together. And this is when I was a young adult!
It's because of him that I can ski, and my love to ski is truly in my DNA. It's because of him that I can do so many things.
He was a great teacher, both on how to do things right, and what not to do in order to live a happy life. He never vocalized the lessons for the latter.
My Daddy had a hard life, born into an immigrant family and abject poverty. He sure knew what it meant be poor, cold and hungry, all while watching his first cousins residing nearby with lives full of luxury, full stomachs and warm, comfortable, soft beds. His grandmother could have provided his immediate family with the same luxuries, but due to belief in superstitions and pure cruelty, she refused. He was just nine-years-old when he learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of heartlessness.
Throughout his life he experienced inequality, prejudice and injustice. Unfortunately, the indignation and difficulties embittered him, expressed to those with whom he was closest.
When I was mature enough to understand this, it made / makes me profoundly sad, but his hardened heart taught me one of the greatest lessons in my life. He always would tell me “Carpe Diem” and “Don't let the turkeys get you down.” His motto was “To be in the mainstream is to mire in mediocrity.” These words are embedded in my soul, and I refuse to succumb to one of the greatest cancers in life — bitterness.
My brothers and I dropped everything and flew to the town of Taos, and we were all there when he took his last breath in the wee hours of the morning. This could not be real; this could not be happening. But this was the unfortunate reality.
I was so exhausted, but my mind and heart would not allow me to sleep. Finally, when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I fell asleep, completely confused and not able to comprehend that I would wake up and my Daddy was gone. I must be having the most horrible dream, I thought, and when I wake up, I will see it was just the Worst. Nightmare. Ever.
Flashback to a few months prior to that fateful day...
My Daddy wanted to go ice skating with me. He took up the sport just a few months prior and was so giddy about this new way of feeling the wind in his hair.
We arrived at the rink around noon and had the place to ourselves. He was like a little kid, showing me his adeptness while helping me un-cling from the wall.
I was very preoccupied and distracted by all the things I had to do at home and for work, and I wasn't present in the moment. After about an hour, I asked him if we could wrap it up and come back another day. While I could see the disappointment in his eyes, he lovingly said yes.
When I returned my rental skates, the guy behind the counter, who was familiar with my Daddy, said with a very puzzled tone, "Going home already? You just got here!" I explained I had too much work to do and couldn't stay. "Tell you what," he said. "I'm giving you a rain check so you can come back for free and skate with your Dad."
He gave me the rain check, and I tucked it away for the next time, which never came.
I would never again hear the hilarious jokes he would make up and deliver with his crooked smile breaking through only after he wryly delivered the punch line. I would never again get his advice on so many things. I would never again witness his deep compassion for his patients, whom he would often treat with so much care (he was a physician) without cashing their checks because he knew they had to choose between paying for his services or putting food on the table for their families.
Slowly I had to learn to live without him and my new reality, and in time, I was comforted knowing my Daddy died doing what he loved most. If he had written a script on how his life would end, I truly believed what transpired was that script.
He died with so many wonderful years left on the calendar, leaving all of us without the pleasure of his company or the gift to experience with him so many milestones that have occurred since his passing. And speaking of gifts, my Daddy got a 4x4 Pathfinder Van way, way back in the day. When he knew 1der and I were meant to be, he told me he wanted to give us the van as our future wedding present. Unfortunately he left us before we exchanged our vows, but his wedding present, our first Beastie, is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
As 1der so beautifully said, “he skied right out of his body.” I have always said his passing was so poetic, for the greatest gift that life could have given him was the way he died.
I've come to revise that statement: the greatest gift that life gave him, and me, is the profound, deep love we had for each other. Me and My Daddy — a bond so deep and so rare. He knew exactly how I felt about him, and I knew exactly how he felt about me. No thoughts were left on the table when he passed; no regrets for words never said. The only regret is not enough time on this earth together.
I wear my heart on my sleeve and live knowing life is truly short. I am not shy about professing my love for others and my love for life.
It brings me to my knees when I think about all the amazing experiences and adventures I've had, walking through so many journeys with the love of my life by my side. My Daddy never had any of this. And I have it because he gave me life and worked so hard so I wouldn't suffer like him. His passing continually inspires me to live life and love to the fullest.
I now choose my priorities wisely, and I relish equivalent ice skating moments. Sometimes things can wait, and sometimes they can't. While it's great to get rain checks, my Daddy's passing taught me just how much they can really cost...
Don't let the turkeys get you down
To be in the mainstream is to mire in mediocrity
Follow your dreams, and go forth always with love, kindness, respect, and passion (Oxford comma intentionally included!!! 😁)
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved for public display.