It’s 1983 in Middle-of-nowhere, West Virginia. Me (Steve, right), my sisters (left), and three cousins (middle). We’re packed into a Starcraft pop-up camper on what was supposed to be a fun family vacation in our camper and our uncle’s camper. Biking, swimming, fishing…just being kids at a campground.
Then everything changed. At the age of 42 with 3 kids under the age of 6, my dad had a massive heart attack. Boom! Let that sink in for a moment. How do you deal with that…on vacation…in a camper…in 1983? With a CB radio and mom’s steady hand on the wheel of the wood-paneled Buick station wagon, miraculously we found a small 30 bed hospital where dad’s life was saved with experimental clot-busting drugs. Over the course of the next few days there were lots of discussions with doctors, a short flight to another hospital, and a triple bypass for dad. Meanwhile, we played in the campground with our cousins shielded from the severity of what had happened by our mom, aunt, and uncle.
Dad was a hard worker, the son of depression-era parents and veteran of the Vietnam war. He worked 60+ hours a week in a paper mill to provide for his wife and kids. Putting food on the table, a roof over our heads, and scraping a bit of money for a camping trip each summer, that’s what a father did in dad’s mind. And so he did it. Everyday. For years. Until that odd cough wouldn’t go away. Since he took October off every year to see his cardiologist and have another balloon surgery or stint procedure, he waited until then to see the doc. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Thank you for your service, sir. Sorry about the agent orange.” With 2 of his kids in college still, dad started chemo, radiation, and ultimately a stem cell transplant.
Here’s dad just days after his initial diagnosis. He’s smiling through it because that’s what guys like him do. And not long afterwards when chemo and radiation had whittled away what was a strong, hard-working man. Not being able to work like he’d done for 39 years tore at him deep inside. “How do I provide now? What’s my purpose now? Where’s MY retirement?” Dad passed away on July 28th, 2000 at the age of 59. Mom, always the rock of the family, held it all together somehow like only moms can do.
Why do I tell you, complete strangers, all of this? What I learned through my dad’s example was that often times we learn the opposite of what our parents intended. Dad worked hard, always. He showed love by making sure we had what we needed. Me? I focus more on doing what I love with those that I love and work to afford it. Dad figured you work hard and save for the future. But because of that retirement he didn’t get, I’ve always taken the approach that you have to enjoy today and be optimistic about the future. Tomorrow is not a given but today is here to be enjoyed.
Amy and I are fortunate that we work for two amazing companies that afford us this opportunity as a family. We realized, through the lessons we’ve learned from our families, that Adelaide will only be 5 once and she thinks we’re pretty cool right now so we’re going to soak up as much time with her as we can. Along the way we’ll share our experience with others.
Why share? 1. Because so many people asked us “are you going to do a blog or something so we can keep up with your adventure”. 2. We were inspired by a few others who were living big adventures with their families. Maybe following our journey will inspire you to live your best life and dive into that adventure you’re dreaming about for “tomorrow”. What if this could change everything for you too?