When I was 13, life was good, life seemed easy. My parents were living the American Dream after coming from Poland as immigrants. After a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, things finally started coming into place. For me, bad things only happened in movies, tragedies seemed as imaginary as unicorns, and fairytales seemed plausible. My biggest problem was that my suitcase was not big enough for the month long vacation my family was taking to Poland. Little did I know that this trip would plague me later on in life.
This trip was our first family vacation. On this trip, I met my grandparents, aunts and uncles. On this trip I visited Poland’s most beautiful cities, including Warsaw and Krakow. On this trip, my dad’s thumb started to go numb. We had no idea at the time, but on this trip, we saw my father’s first signs of a terminal illness; ALS.
I never knew that a thumb could signify so much loss. After a brief period of time the disease progressed into a numb hand, a numb right arm, a numb left arm, and so on and so forth. I watched my father dwindle away as Lou Gehrig’s disease slowly took him away from me. My father, my rock, the one that held me together, was now crumbling to pieces. Our perfect life seemed to be coming apart at the seams and yet the one who was suffering the most was the one who held the most hope. Through his illness he never gave up, never stopped fighting, and never lost faith.
Even though my father is gone now, he is not gone from my heart. I think of him each day and remember that he never gave up, and never stopped fighting. I am proud of my father and his accomplishments. He built a life for my family, a life where we could carry out our dreams. He constantly challenged himself and pushed the limits of his ability. He took risks and never let them stop him from reaching his goals. They only forced him to look at a problem from a different angle and find a new perspective. He proved his determination to go above and beyond the obstacles that hindered him.
When I talk to people who knew my father, I am always grateful when they tell me that I am the one that reminds them the most of him. I will always make sure to live out his legacy of ambition, determination, compassion, and hope in trying to establish my very own American Dream.
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