Being There

Men are conditioned to be both providers and "fixers". This doesn't change when you become a father, it intensifies. All of a sudden you become responsible for not only caring for this tiny person, who can't tell you exactly what they need, but also preparing them to both survive and thrive within this constantly changing, chaotic world. And if your child is a girl, you find yourself also wanting and needing to always be here knight in shining armor. However, often you will find that just being there for her is all she needs once she becomes her own woman. This will be a difficult thing to adjust to after being her hero for so long. Just trust that everything you instilled within her is held within the core of her being. Despite what some of her decisions may indicate. It will be hard to see her encounter life's struggles that go beyond your understanding. Just remember to always be there with a listening ear. A little over two years ago my father and I stood at this "crossroads" of sorts. Growing up, my father, though stern and stubborn, was my hero. Even from two states away, he made sure that my sister and I knew that if we ever needed him, he would be there, and he always was. Being that my father and I are very similar, once I began speaking independently, we bumped heads. As I grew into a teenager our relationship became rocky for many years into my adulthood. He did not approve of my choice in husband and that made things even worse. Then at the age of twenty-nine, as I was just beginning to navigate my divorce, I had a massive Grand Mal Seizure. Subsequently I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation of the Brain Type 1. Due to the fact that it was acquired from a severe head trauma injury 23yrs prior, my symptoms were both extreme and unpredictable. Within weeks I was no longer able to eat, speak, walk, hear, or see properly. The many seizures that plagued my day to day life were slowly taking large chunks of my memory and working became impossible. Many (including myself) had never heard of the condition. My family often stood on either side of a double edged sword. Either they were so afraid of what was going on that they didn't know how to deal with me, or they believed that there was nothing truly physically wrong with me. It was a very difficult time. However, my father was a constant source of both emotional and financial support. He had never been a man of many words. Even when he knew what to say it never came out quite right and ended in conflict. Yet in this instance; my father, the stubborn, opinionated, perpetual fixer, often said nothing. Instead, outside of reassurances that I would be ok, that I would survive, he just listened. He listened to every trial, every fear, every insecurity, every doubt. Despite his own fears and worries he listened to me and just was a listening ear. It was during this time that we grew closer than ever before. I admit that I thought it would be my mother who would be walking the long road to recovery with me, but she wasn't strong enough, by her own admission. My mother was who I wanted to hold my hand throughout the treatments and tribulations, but it was my father who was there like a sentinel over me. Every step of the way. Clothed in patience and understanding. Never knowing what to say about the problem he couldn't fix, but always willing to listen and encourage. Eventually due to there being an abundance spinal fluid on my brain (Hydrocephalus) and a fluid filled cavity within my spinal cord (Syringomyelia) I was rushed to Urgent Brain Surgery. Me being able to walk and talk at the time was medically unexplainable. Just three months prior to surgery I was deemed, in spite of my many debilitating symptoms, inoperable. The first face I saw upon waking up, was my father's. Since then he continues to be there for me. Sometimes even having to be my memory. Sometimes having to be patient with me as I made/make decisions that he doesn't approve of or understand. We don't always see eye to eye, but he's been here supporting me and helping me regain my independence. Having his support has meant more to me and has comforted me more than I ever thought possible. Even when I wanted to and even tried to give up! He has been there encouraging me to keep pushing and fighting. We have learned so much these past two years both about each other and about life in general. Being a parent isn't easy, I'm sure you all know that. You're not going to have all of the answers, I'm sure you know that too. I share our story today to encourage you and be a reminder that you don't HAVE to have the answers. You don't HAVE to be able to "fix" the problems your children encounter and sometimes there will be nothing that you can do. Life is going to happen. Your children are going to make mistakes, encounter both triumphs and failures. But remember, throughout all of it, your lessons will be with them. I share our story as a reminder that BEING THERE is always most important.

V.L. Stroude is a Writer and Chiari Malformation Survivor. For more of her work visit

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