It's not the best picture of him, but a moment I remember fondly, and I can see the pride and happiness in his face. He was a man of few words, but during my senior year in high school and my college years he and I became very close. It started when he drove me around the country looking at colleges. He knew I said I wanted to major in Chemical Engineering, as he did, but he wasn't convinced it was right for me. He questioned me endlessly about it, about my goals for the future, for my career and a family. He encouraged me in my dream to get married and have kids and stay home with them, but also encouraged me in my need to be able to support myself with a career if a husband wasn't meant to be. He encouraged me to get involved in Christian fellowship at school, and to study hard and exercise. I appreciated his advice, but didn't take too much of it.
He was so obviously proud of my academic acheivments, especially getting into the Ivy League institution he had wanted to attend but got rejected from. He was thrilled when I picked Penn State instead and relished every football game he went to and watched on TV with me. He encouraged me to finish my thesis when I wanted to give up. He shared his secret feelings and advice with my future husband that I only learned about later.
He and I rode to the church in the back of a limo on my wedding day. It was our few minutes alone on a big day. He said to me "Sarah, I know we've shelled out a lot of money already for this wedding, but if you have any doubt about getting married, I will gladly turn this limo around right now and not give the money a second thought." It was the sweetest thing EVER. Needless to say, we kept going. When he and I danced at the reception later, he whispered little jokes in my ear to keep us both from crying. Because like father, like daughter, we don't like big displays of emotion.
Six months later, just before Christmas, my dad died of a sudden heart attack at age 49. No personal history of heart disease, high cholesterol, or obesity. Just goes to show, you never know. Mortality hit me like a ton of bricks and now I have an ever present sense that anyone could die at any minute. My poor mom was left alone, and my poor sister didn't have my dad on her wedding day. I had my husband, my rock. I moved on super fast, and got frustrated when my mom and sister didn't. Thankfully now my mom is remarried to a guy who takes good care of her, as is my sister.
Unfortunately, a couple years later my dad's only sibling, my uncle died of heart failure under the age of 50 too, leaving my wonderful grandparents childless, and leaving me with really bad genes. In case you didn't know, having one family member die young of heart disease increases your risk factor something like 10 times. Having two? Jeez I dunno. So I gotta watch it carefully. The leading cause of death in women is Heart Disease, not cancer. Pay attention to your health, go get a stress test.