Thinking back to when I was a little girl, some of the fondest memories I have were with my dad.
We spent afternoons going on walks together in the forest behind our house.
Every year at Christmas time, we spent hours putting up festive lights in the shape of a Christmas tree on the front of our barn. I used to ride around on his shoulders, and he would sing, “I love my daughter. I love my daughter.” I would burst out in uncontrollable laughter.
We raised chickens together, built forts in the backyard and spent lazy afternoons swinging on the tire swing he built for me off a giant willow tree behind our house. I was his little girl, and he was the first man to ever steal my heart.
As I’ve gotten older, the love for my dad has only continued to grow stronger.
Years ago, I treated Father’s Day as just another day of the year. I love my dad, and it was a day to show my appreciation for the bond we share.
Like many of us, I wouldn’t start thinking about Father’s Day until it was a few days away.
I would run out to Home Depot and ask for the “latest and greatest” tool that was out there, one I was sure my dad hadn’t already added to his collection.
Aside from that, I would spend a few minutes debating cards at the local pharmacy and pick up a few things from the grocery store to make a nice breakfast that morning, but that was it.
That was the essence of our Father’s Day celebration for many, many years until recently.
I now look at Father’s Day as a yearly countdown — a turning point for our family.
It’s a day of the year that means more to me than sharing breakfast together or buying my dad a new tool from the hardware store.
It’s now a day that is one of the most important days of the year.
It’s a representation of my dad making it through another year.
In 2008, our family dynamic changed forever. My dad was diagnosed with leukemia. Ever since that day, our family has been through the lowest of lows.
The truly happy times are difficult to come by with his illness constantly lingering over our time.
Over the years, we’ve seen my dad with a tube down his throat and being told he has months to live, and there have been numerous times he's been too weak to walk.
He’s been hospitalized too often to count. Over the holidays this year, while many people were creating happy memories with their families, our Christmas was spent at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Throughout these ups and downs, there have been times I’ve been afraid to spend time with my dad. I've been afraid any good memories shared could be the last.
There have been times I’ve looked at one of my best friends, tears rolling down my cheeks, afraid to ask if it’s okay to think about what it would be like to speak at his funeral.
If I could go back in time, I would look at celebrating Father’s Day in a whole new light.
It’s no longer about the gifts, the endless rows of Hallmark cards or what you plan for your dad on that day.
It’s about realizing how lucky you are to have your dad or a father figure of any kind in your life.
I’ve learned how important it is to cherish the moments you have with loved ones every day of the year, and if I could share one thing from the turmoil I’ve experienced with my dad’s illness, it’s that life as you know it can turn upside down in a moment.
You may not have next year’s Father’s Day to look forward to.
This year, and for the last few years, Father’s Day has meant that my dad has won his battle with leukemia another year.
I no longer celebrate with my dad on Father’s Day; I celebrate with him every day of the year.
To everyone who’s able to celebrate this year, remember it’s not just about the day.
It’s about being fortunate enough to have Dad around to share it with. You never know when that could change.