"Love is something that might seem to be hidden at times, and as I grew up my perceptions of love were being developed even as I sometimes failed to recognize that they were."
When people who have memories of their fathers think of them, they often have a variety of them. Some of these memories are perhaps negative ones, while others are positive and have changed their lives. When I think of my father, the only one I have known because he adopted me at age one or two, a number of the memories I have are immensely positive.
As a baby, I was completely unaware of the service my father provided to America. He served two tours in the Vietnam War as a medic, providing emergency medical care to wounded soldiers as well as Vietnamese civilians. One of the pictures I later saw of him that was taken during the war showed him with a group of Vietnamese children who were smiling as he knelt to give them hugs. Another showed him with a group of fellow soldiers in a field medical unit; a harder memory I am sure for dad because he won't talk about the war.
Love is something that might seem to be hidden at times, and as I grew up my perceptions of love were being developed even as I sometimes failed to recognize that they were. When my mother died my brother and I were still very young; dad was there, doing what he could with a horrible situation. The trauma of my mother's suicide had an effect on both my brother and I that has lasted for years on end - my father has demonstrated great understanding, patience, and love. By doing so he taught both my brother and I how to demonstrate these very things.
For more than thirty years, my father ran a walk-in-clinic. He earned his Master's degree in Nursing and provided medical care to everyone from fellow veterans to people who were homeless to lawyers and doctors. It did not matter who a person was, everyone and anyone at all could come into his clinic for care. He also used to go to the, 'Millionaire's Club,' a homeless shelter for men, and provide medical care for people there, as well as providing care for people on various Native-American reservations. One of the most important things my father taught me is that it doesn't matter what race, class, gender, ability, sexual identity, or other social identification a person has associated with them - they are People First and are human beings before anything else.
Sometimes people think of their father's and the memories they have solely in terms of their formative years. When I think of my father I think of the continuing lessons he teaches me at times. Not long ago he said to me, 'Tom, I don't hate anyone.' What a profound statement; it is one he has made before, in other words. My father taught me that it is important to love those who love you back, as well as those who deserve love and are unable to respond. Even when trauma drove me to behave incredibly badly, he still demonstrated love towards me and not hate.
If you examine the efforts my father has made over the years, written into this article, you may notice the incredible amount of service to people, nation, and family my father has contributed. The depth of his personal efforts has been nothing short of admirable, to say the very least. My father set a very positive and constructive example for both my brother and I through the years. The PTSD I have began at age nine, although the diagnosis did not exist at the time.
When I became, 'officially disabled,' at age eighteen due to a heat stroke at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as I did my best to serve America and ended up with epilepsy, my father did what he could to be there and understand. When I nearly lost my life because of status epilepticus, it scared him senseless, but he was still there. Some parents reject their children with disabilities simply because they do not understand the disabilities their children have, or they are ashamed, or they are afraid. My father did not.
His example over-rode the trauma that has marked my life, leading me to serve fellow Persons with Disabilities for twenty-four years as a C.N.A. He taught me that education was a worthy pursuit by pursuing it himself. The love, care and concern he demonstrated towards others without regard for social identification led to my own perceptions of who people are. My father taught me that hate gets you nothing, and that while life is often unfair, love and people who return it make life very worthwhile. My father taught me that people are more important than money, politicians or politics, or worldly goods. My father taught me, 'People First.'
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