From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Teenagers
By Latrice Holmes
Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.
It took me longer than it should have to learn to appreciate my family. Up until I was seventeen, I considered my life perfect. I had both parents who were still madly in love even after twenty-five years, two older brothers who have kept me out of harm’s way, an older sister who spoiled me rotten, and a little brother who I adored. I had the best of friends, lived in a great neighborhood, enjoyed school, and was the first in my family to get a car bought for me at just sixteen. I found myself expecting more and more from my family and didn’t appreciate them for the things they did do for me.
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I’ll be the first to admit that I was more spoiled than most. The older we all got the worse I became. Once my two older brothers and my sister moved out, I felt the “power” of being the oldest sibling in the house. I was also becoming too self-centered to be as close to my little brother as I used to be. He was just a freshman, and outside of home, I didn’t care to be around him. Over time, my brothers moved farther away, I spent less time at home, my little brother became more rebellious, and we all grew apart. I could have cared less.
Then one day, everything changed. My dad always woke us up for school with a simple yell of our names every five minutes, which eventually motivated us to get up and get ready. This particular Monday, however, was different. There was no wake-up call. I was lying on my bed, making shapes on the rough textured ceiling, waiting for my personal alarm clock. After a while I got up on my own, woke up my little brother and got ready for school. I brushed the unusual morning off and went about my day with an uneasy feeling. Before I knew it, I was in the Salem Hospital waiting room, watching the clock tease me with the annoying “click” noise it made as each second passed. My dad had suffered a stroke and had to be flown to OHSU hospital in Portland. My brothers kept assuring me he was okay. I even chuckled at the fact that he was going to be in a helicopter because he was so terrified of flying. Once we arrived at the hospital in Portland, the severity of the situation really hit me.
After a very long Monday and Tuesday some of us went home for the night, questions still unanswered. But something told me not to go to sleep that night, and I knew why once I saw my older brother’s picture pop up on my caller ID at 2 a.m. By the tone of his voice, he didn’t have to tell me the news because I already knew. As I got into the car, ready for the longest forty-five-minute drive of my life, I tried to prepare myself for goodbye. All I could think about was myself. My graduation, my wedding, my future kids growing up without a wonderful grandpa — how all of this was going to affect me.
Then, before I could grasp what was happening, it was over. My world came to a complete halt. I stared in a daze as my fourteen-year-old brother lay across my dad’s peaceful, lifeless chest, promising him his own world. The pain behind his eyes wrapped around and suffocated my already shattered heart. And as I wrapped my arms around my broken baby brother, every selfish thought I ever had left my head and never returned.
Losing my dad taught me a life lesson that everything you have can be taken right from under your nose quicker than a hiccup. I can truly say my life took a complete turn for the better. My days are no longer spent living in my own world. I never leave without reminding my family that I love them, and I’ve learned to appreciate the things I have in life. I even enjoy taking care of my little brother, now seventeen and not so little. I love the things he depends on me for, and how much of an impact he has on me. It took losing one of the most important people in my life to realize I needed to cherish the ones I have. Even though I would give the world to have my dad back, I thank him every day for helping me learn to appreciate God’s greatest wonder, my family.
Reprinted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC (c) 2010. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.