My Dad nearly lost his life, was suffering from severe depression and had almost given up, but something happened, and suddenly, I knew everything would be okay!
Johannesburg, South Africa (20 April 2021) – My Dad taught me many things while growing up, but perhaps the most profound things I learnt from him were the things he never knew he was teaching me.
Last night I was shaving my beard, and I remembered something so significant. A lesson that I would love to share with you. This is a long read, but perhaps one that you could learn from too?
I was 16 and planning on sleeping late on a Sunday when a loud banging on the front door woke me. It was a group of my Dad’s friends who were all on a breakfast run together. They had somehow beat him home and wanted to pop the champers for lunch. I crawled out of bed grumpy and very annoyed. I did not feel like entertaining. Ugggg, teenagers are the worst.
Within minutes the house had turned into a festive celebration… the music was blaring, the braai had been lit, beers were on ice, but my Dad was nowhere to be seen.
I wasn’t worried at all as he was a “live-in-the-moment” type of guy and could get distracted very quickly; he may have stopped for a drink with someone or gone to a completely different lunch altogether, or perhaps he was in a church somewhere getting married, or even on a plane making his way to a European country to party with friends only letting me know when he touched down on the other side of the pond. You see, these things all happened and were not bizarre occurrences.
But I was irritated and did not feel like entertaining, so I tried calling him.
I called his cellphone… no answer.
I called again 10 minutes later… no answer.
I called again after that… no answer.
Granted, he was on his motorbike, but back then, Nokias had a vibrate that could move tectonic plates and a loud ring that pierced your eardrums… so he would have known that I was looking for him. I decided to call my brother to see if he had heard from him.
I called my brother’s cellphone… no answer.
I called me Dad’s phone… no answer
And then my Dad called me, but my brother was on the other side of the line.
“Get to the Union, Dad has been in a serious accident, and he is critical. Just get here now.”
My world shifted. I went weak at the knees. I forgot to breathe. I’m not sure what happened next or how I got to the hospital, but I will never forget seeing him on all those machines.
Something happened on the highway on the way home. He was going very fast. He came off his motorbike, and his body hit the barrier. It nearly ripped his arm clean off. He broke so many bones. He was so broken lying in the ICU.
This wouldn’t be the first time I would be told that my Dad might die, but it felt pretty damn real that day.
Somehow he pulled through, by the grace of God, but he spent months in hospital and then rehabilitation. My brother had to move back home to look after me, and he did such a great job. Justin has always been my “other dad”, not something he asked for, but he did it so well.
Eventually, my Dad came home, but he had changed. He was paralysed in his left arm, he had no feeling or movement from his shoulder downwards, and this – in his mind – had taken his carefree, live-in-the-moment life away. My Dad had lost the will to live and was suffering from severe depression. The next couple of months were really, really hard. I was living with an angry, broken man. He hardly got out of bed; he stopped seeing his friends and mostly just lay there… day in and day out. I don’t think I could ever really put into words what it feels like seeing your parent fade away right in front of you. It was truly heartbreaking.
I picked up the slack and started taking more control in the house. I went to school during the day and worked in restaurants at night. I did the grocery shopping and the cooking and the cleaning, and made sure that he got out of bed to shower now and then. We also kind of stopped talking about stuff. He had nothing to say and he didn’t want to hear much about me. It was a really, really tough time.
One random Sunday, I walked to the shop to buy something for the house, and when I got home, I could hear shuffling and banging and crying coming from the bathroom.
I peered down the passage and could see my Dad shaving his beard for the first time in months. He hadn’t done anything for himself in what felt like forever, but there he stood, his left arm dangling by his side, crying his eyes out while shaving… but doing something for himself.
I teared up immediately, put on a brave face, and walked into the bathroom to ask if he needed help.
He turned to me to say: “I am going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay. Time to get up. Time to show up. I’m going to make it okay.”
It was that day that everything changed – for him and me. He shifted his entire mindset, and his whole internal narrative changed as well. Within moments, my Dad came back to me; he came back to the world. And suddenly everything felt okay again.
It took some time but he learnt how to do EVERYTHING with his one hand; tying shoelaces, putting on jeans, driving cars, steering boats, riding motorbikes, running a business, partying up a storm… and just living his best life! I think he even got married again (a few times) and every now and then, phoned me from random countries, letting me know that he was safe and still making it okay!
The last year has been so traumatic and it just feels like waves of hardships that constantly keep crashing into us but last night I was shaving my beard, and for some reason, I remembered that exact moment I saw my Dad in the bathroom that day.
I felt a tear gently roll down my cheek and then I said to myself… time to get up, time to show up, time to make it okay.