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June 18, 2010 > Me and my Dad

Me and my Dad

By Stephanie Keung

My dad and I have been the best of friends since the day I was born. He is my idol, my hero and my teacher. When I was little, he would teach me how to draw before he went to work so that I wouldn't be bored; when I was a teenager, we would go horse-backing riding together every weekend. My father has dedicated his life to equestrian sports. Not only does he own a tack shop, but also he used to compete in many different countries on behalf of our national team at an early age.

For a while, he taught at a riding school and managed the horse stables there. In addition, because we are both so much into this sport, he applies every lecture about life into it and I understand perfectly.

Despite the fact that he is thirty years older than me, he was more physically fit than most boys of my age. He would swim and ride his horse before work, and then play in a soccer match on the community field daily. He was able to run his business while maintaining an active, healthy life. I truly respect him because this was not the life he used to live before my birth. Back then, he smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and partied until the sun came up; ever since I came to life, he does none of that. He even got a job he disliked for the sake of me. My father has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love.

December 2008, I was living in Las Vegas with my two cats while my family was still in Hong Kong. I received a phone call from my sister one night, she didn't sound as upbeat as always. She told me that our dad had fallen off a horse and injured his neck. To be honest, I was indifferent at the time since he had broken so many bones before. But as she continued, my head began to spin. My father could not move, nor could he feel anything from his neck down after the fall. He was paralyzed. I finally got off the phone with my sister, had barely paid any attention to anything else she said. I didn't cry, I just laid there and my mind was blank.

The following days, I went to work and put on a smile. I placed that conversation with my sister in the back of my head and just concentrated on my job until a week later when my father called from the hospital. I hesitated to pick up but decided to answer with my usual happy greeting. His voice was weak and trembling. Moreover, after saying 'hello' and asking how I was, he suddenly broke down and cried.

My heart was racing and I didn't know how to react. I had never seen or heard my father cry before, not even at the airport when I moved to America. I can still remember that voice of his like it was yesterday. Eventually I tried the best I could to comfort him and then my mom took over the phone. She was crying too. She wanted me to come back to see my dad, and to stay for a couple of months. The next day, I went straight to my manager at work and resigned.

April 2009, I was finally home, back in Hong Kong. My sister came to pick me up and we went straight to the rehabilitation center from the airport, with my luggage and everything. My heart ached when I saw my dad for the first time in years. His hair was gray, his cheeks caved in. He lost all his muscles and his arms looked limp. He couldn't sit up straight but he had the brightest smile on his face as I walked in.

I lied to him that I took a few months off and my boss was okay with it. We talked while he was in physiotherapy, while he showed me a bit of what he could do. His left side of the body had begun to recover and he was able to do simple tasks with his left arm. I stayed with him until he was ready to go to sleep and the visiting hours were over. It had been a while since I spent a whole day with my father.

The following morning I arrived at the rehabilitation center with breakfast and we enjoyed it together before the first session of therapy. I was taught how to transfer him from the bed to the wheelchair and vice versa, and then we started to work on the problems he would encounter when he moved back home. I was there every single day from morning until night, keeping him company and making sure that he stayed in a good mood. He improved little by little every day but wasn't consistent; sometimes he would get frustrated and wanted to give up. It would be another two months before he eventually moved home.

My dad was happy to be home at the beginning. However, home was in fact more inconvenient for him since it wasn't equipped for the disabled. After a while, he became depressed and anti-social. He felt helpless and worthless. He was grumpy and touchy. As his daughter, I had never been more stressed in my life. The burden on my shoulders was almost unbearable. At the time, I thought I was the only person who could change the situation; but no matter how hard I tried, it remained the same.

My family members surrounded me, yet I felt lonelier than I ever was in the States by myself. It didn't take long until I became depressed and anti-social, like my dad. I was miserable. Then one day, my dad suddenly laughed at something funny on TV, and that woke me from my nightmare.

It has been over two years since the accident. My dad is now able to walk slowly with a walking stick. He can move pretty well and do most of the things on his own. Above all, he is happy, positive and hopeful. He never asked what had happened to my job, but I'm sure he's guessed by now. Every one of us in the family has learned the most valuable lesson and our bond is stronger than ever. Although my father isn't half as fit now as he used to be, he is still and will always be my idol, my hero and my teacher.

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