Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Memory of My Daddy

My beloved father died on July 12, 2009, after a long and courageous bout with brain cancer. This blog post is dedicated to his memory that will always live on in my heart and the countless other hearts he touched while he was on this Earth. This blog post also features a healthy omelet recipe, which my Dad would never eat, as he preferred his eggs plain and full of cholesterol.

A Hero's Journey

He sits in a blue reclining chair, his eyes shining with mischief and exhaustion. His day began promptly at five thirty this morning, just as it has every other morning for the past fifty eight years. From the moment his feet hit the floor they are in perpetual motion, each step dedicated to helping others. Selflessly, he devotes the majority of his day to assisting other people with their activities of daily living. No small feat for a survivor of a tragic childhood, four brain tumors, and a tour in Vietnam. Although he conceals it well, some days it is difficult for him to get out of bed. The tumor in his brain wreaks havoc with his balance and hearing. He is completely deaf in his left ear. Frequently, he stumbles into walls and is plagued with seizures and nausea. His head bears faded torturous scars from the three brain surgeries he has endured. There are tiny blue tattoos sprinkled across his forehead which are souvenirs from two bouts of radiation therapy. Rarely does he speak of his illness, only if he feels by sharing his story it will benefit another. The tasks he undertakes may seem mundane to the average person. However, these important gifts he freely bestows upon others are priceless. His list of good deeds is endless and clandestine. He does not believe in tooting his own horn, but rather quietly performs these tasks with no expectation of gratitude or appreciation. His list of daily contributions to others is infinite. It includes fixing toilets for widows, mowing the lawn for the wife of an imprisoned man, teaching new immigrants the idiosyncrasies of American culture, repairing the broken bicycle of a fatherless child, fixing a strangers flat tire, helping a lost, drunken man find his way home, and tutoring a failing student in chemistry. On the days when he is too ill to move about, he contributes by lending a listening ear and compassionate words to those in need. He completes all of these activities with an altruistic joy that permeates his whole being. He takes pride in making someone else’s day and is constantly on the look out of a person in need.

This joyous saint of a man in this chair is my father. Ironically, sixteen years ago my father was convinced his life was without meaning or purpose. As a well-educated and accomplished genius in the pharmaceutical industry, my father once derived his identity from his career. Much of his time was spent on business trips and tending to the needs of our family. After his second brain surgery, my father became too ill to work. The surgery and subsequent radiation had impaired his short term memory and ability to concentrate and focus. With a heavy heart, he reluctantly resigned his position after being deemed permanently and totally disabled by a panel of medical experts. The first few weeks after he stopped working were extremely difficult for him. He sat listlessly in that big blue chair, wondering what the next day would bring. He had loved being productive but sadly his body and mind were no longer what they used to be. His liquid brown eyes were full of pain and anguish. I think some days he was just waiting to die. Well-meaning friends and family, including myself, would ask him what he was planning to do with his time, as if he were on some sort of extended vacation. These questions served only to increase his anxiety. Limited by his medical condition and disability, he lamented why he was on his earth.

I do not recall any single incident that arouse my father from the slumber of his hopelessness. Rather, it was an insidious series of events that made him clearly see the path of his life’s journey. Perhaps it began when my father received a teary late night telephone call from a former colleague whose seventeen year old daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Without a moment’s hesitation, my father went to this young girl’s bedside to offer her words of comfort and inspiration but most importantly, truth. My father became like a man on a beach with a metal detector in pursuit of buried treasures. Everywhere he went, he sought out to identify a human need and fulfill it. It seemed as if disadvantaged people were placed directly in front of him by a force of divine intervention. An elderly man standing in the middle of the road bleeding. A single mother with a dead battery in the parking lot of a convenience store. My father’s eye once gain became bright pools of light and inspiration. He discovered something that is available to us all if only we can silence our minds to hear the divine calling.

As his sits in the recliner the pearls of wisdom roll of his tongue. “I spent a long time wondering why I was here and why I have survived.” He murmurs deliberately “Now I know that I am here to help others on their journey.” And from his a small offering of words I learn a vast lesson. Do not spend the majority of your time and energy contemplating your life’s mission and purpose. Your purpose on earth is more readily discovered when you increase your awareness about what is going on around you and seek to help others. Put simply, just be, do what it placed in front of you and turn the rest over to God.

Italian Egg White Omelet

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

4 egg whites

1 tablespoon green peppers -- diced fine

1 tablespoon red peppers -- diced fine

1 tablespoon black olives -- pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, part skim -- shredded

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

Combine peppers, basil, and black olives in a small bowl.

Separate egg whites from yolk. Discard yolks and whisk egg whites.

Spray skillet with vegetable oil spray and heat on stove on medium high heat.

When pan is hot place veggie mixture in and cook for 1-2 minutes

Pour egg whites into skillet. Cook for approximately four minutes stirring

constantly. Sprinkle with cheese. Cook for additional minute or until cheese is melted. Fold onto plate and serve.