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.
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.