This past week was one of the hardest of my life. Last Sunday, April 23rd I was on set at a photo shoot, I got the call that you never want to receive. It was my brother, telling me to come home, because my dad wasn’t going to make it much longer. I hopped on a plane to Michigan that night. A little back story is that my dad had a blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), it’s a precursor to leukemia. Dad elected to have stem cell transplant last fall. It was his only chance at living life for longer than a few more years. The transplant took, he spent many weeks in the hospital recovering, he returned home to continue his recovery and we got to spend the holidays with him. One of the big risks of this procedure is that your body can attack the new cells. This is somewhat common, but doctors can help this side affect to some degree. My dad experienced this in the way of his skin flaking. In early March Dad had a fever and went into the hospital. Because his immune system is compromised, he spent four weeks combatting the viruses in his body. They finally released him and we thought that was behind us, for him only to end up back in the hospital less than a week later with low white blood cell counts. The doctors say that when my dad’s immune system kicked in, it started attacking the new cells and after the skin, the next organ they attached was his lungs. There was nothing they could do. When we got the call, the said he'd never breath on his own again.
My family and I watched for four agonizing days as his lungs got weaker and weaker. We all knew what the outcome would be, but prayed for a miracle. I am lucky that I had the opportunity to thank my dad for all his love and support and for being such a wonderful influence in mine and my family’s life. My dad took his last breath last Thursday, April 27th.
I was already in a tight time crunch for my One Room Challenge, and ten days away did not do me any favors. Clearly, this blog project is not a priority in my life at the moment. But I want to finish, or attempt to anyway, because my house projects were a special connecting point between my dad and I. This project in particular, the garage, is a fitting tribute to my dad. You see, I watched my dad build our garage from the ground up. I was about 9 years old and witnessed my dad construct the walls while simultaneously teaching me that with drive and ingenuity, it’s absolutely possible to create something out of nothing.
I was there when his friends and family came by to help him raise the 20 ft wall frames. My dad was not one to ask for help very often, in fact, he was often the one offering help. Through witnessing this team effort he taught me that there are some things you just can’t do alone. This memory illustrates the wonderful people that surrounded my dad in his life, many of those faces I saw earlier this week, under very different circumstances.
Once our garage structure was built, before we cluttered it up with years of collected items, it was a wide open space perfect for kids to run and roller skate around. Before the brick and siding and dry wall was added, my parents threw an awesome Halloween party for me and my friends. We decorated the space, draped in black ground covering fabric, skeletons and strobe lights. My entire family was there to help and celebrate and a family-friend even read fortunes for the guests. From this party, I learned how important it is to celebrate your accomplishments.
A few years after that party, I was my dad’s right hand gal turning the loft area of the garage into a hang zone fit for a “That 70’s Show” loving teenager. Together we picked out and applied a red paint color to the walls. I combed through my dad’s record collection to choose which should grace the walls, and I collected vintage music memorabilia and displayed my dad's old license plate collection. I proudly invited my friends over to enjoy this room built with so much love.
My dad was my person for this kind of stuff. The person I turned to for questions, recommendations, and ideas. My dad was the person I would send my progress and after photos to first, I was always so proud to share the fruits of my labor, which I learned from watching him over the years. Dad LOVED helping me and my brothers, I think we both wished we lived closer, as he would have been by my side for each and every room makeover I have undertaken.
I am mot sure if I will be able to finish this project on time, but I will finish, and I know my dad would be so proud of my work, and I hope he is smiling down as I work on another garage.
A final note: in preparing for this post, I learned a final, lesser-important lesson, don't forget to take before and after shots. My dad built so many things and took on so many projects, and after looking through hundreds of photos, I couldn't find one pictures of my dad showing off his work. The photo above was the closest I got, and that is my older brother on the ladder. And the photo below is one of my favorites of my dad and I from 2014, the trip we told our families we were having a baby. We are in our happy place, and this is how I will always picture him in my heart.