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Column: Becoming a third parent

'The cycle of the unknown starts back up.'

%E2%80%9CFrom+an+early+age+I+knew+something+was+different+with+my+family%E2%80%9Ds+dynamic.%E2%80%9D+Courtesy+of+Jennifer+Blake.
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Column: Becoming a third parent

“From an early age I knew something was different with my family”s dynamic.” Courtesy of Jennifer Blake.

“From an early age I knew something was different with my family”s dynamic.” Courtesy of Jennifer Blake.

“From an early age I knew something was different with my family”s dynamic.” Courtesy of Jennifer Blake.

“From an early age I knew something was different with my family”s dynamic.” Courtesy of Jennifer Blake.

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The fear in my mind as I watched my father collapse onto the ground.

The fear in my mind every time I heard he was going in for another surgery.

The fear in my mind whenever my mom texts me that they’re going to the ER again.

The cycle of the unknown starts back up.


 

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in his 20’s, identifying it so late was detrimental to his health. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that attacks the immune system. There is no cure, just medications and surgery. Though the medicine helps, living with the disease is still difficult.

The idea that my father’s health was not only in an unstable condition, but was almost impossible to predict, was unnerving. From an early age I knew something was different with my family’s dynamic. My mom sent me to friend’s houses while she spent nights with my father at the hospital. Mostly it was weekends but on occasion I’d spend a school night with someone. I didn’t mind, it felt like an early weekend, I was giddy and carefree. Although, when I was shaken awake by someone other than my own mother, it was foreign.

Everytime we went to church, I was bombarded with questions about his condition and how he’s doing. Family and friends sent us care packages, they’d offer anything they could give and always wished us well. In the daily pamphlets given out before church service, his name and our family was always listed in the ‘Who to Pray For’ section.

As much as this was a caring act, it made me feel like we were a weak family that couldn’t fend for ourselves. I felt like I had already lost my father.


 

By early 2011, halfway through fourth grade year, my father was allowed to come home and recover. A breath of fresh air filled my lungs. Even though my father was back, it didn’t feel like it. Our connection faded while he was closer than ever.  

As I climbed up into my teenage years, I strayed farther and farther from him. His personality had changed from back when I was little. His unbothered and energized nature twisted into an iron-fisted temper. I felt as if the doctors sent me someone else. The drugs and lengthy hospital stays kept my father and handed over a clone.


 

Unfortunately, my sophomore year my father had another ER trip and stayed for a week. I knew his disease hadn’t disappeared, but it blindsided me. The thoughts all rammed back into my head and intertwined like earbuds after they’ve been in a backpack. School work became a second priority while anxiety became the first.

How many surgeries until they’ve done all they can. I feared the doctors would run out of answers and we would have to wait for him to die.


Learning to live with my father’s illness was rigorous. I was told often how mature or bossy I seem, but in the back of my head I knew it was from being the third parent. One part of me hated that my past has affected how I live my day to day life. While the other part is hopeful that I gained leader attributes which would help me with taking charge of my school and career path. I’ve taken a more assertive stance in my life. I hope it leads me to be less afraid of the unknown.

We might clash ideas a lot, but not all recalls of the past are tainted. From walks around our neighborhood while I ride in my toy car to him showing me the music videos he watched in his youth. I hold love for him in my heart and don’t let the issues of his disease change my mind.

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Column: Becoming a third parent