happy fathers' day

My father died when I was 9. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.

No, my dad was not abusive, he wasn't a drunk or a druggie. He was an upstanding, wonderful, devoted father. He doted on me as his only girl, born on his birthday, and 15 years later than his and my mother's youngest child. He was always faithful to my mother; he loved my two brothers, and provided the best for all of us.

At the point that he died suddenly from a brain bleed related to smoking and hypertension, he had just been promoted to a management job in the NYC transit authority, working as the supervisor of all surface transportation. He had a chauffeur and had just received a huge raise. He intended for my mom and I to live in luxury. The chauffeur would drive me to my dance lessons, and I have a feeling that had my dad lived, he would have seen to it that I didn't need to worry about anything, that I would go to the best schools, get into the best college, and never want for anything. He was a high school graduate who had worked his way up from a trolley conductor and bus driver to the position he held at the end of his foreshortened life.

I firmly believe that had he lived, as wonderful as that would have been, I would not be where I am today. I believe that my ambition, my drive, my passion for what I do, all stems from the loss I suffered as a young child, as well as the coping mechanisms I developed. I saw my mom, a wonderful, smart, caring woman, who only had an 8th grade education, suffer tremendously when her husband died. I saw her near-incapacitation, her naivete with regard to the world at large, and I vowed to myself that I would never be like that, that I would know how to conduct my life, and I would be able to fend for myself.

So, his death made me stronger, more resilient, more tenacious, and more self-assured.

Why am I writing this on father's day? Well, to make sure that we can celebrate ALL fathers, even those who may not be in their children's lives in the way that they or we would wish. I wouldn't wish the loss of a father on any child, but I know that plenty of children lose their dads; through death, divorce, or illness, and some have never known their dad. Nonetheless, a father leaves something with his children. He impacts them at least through their DNA, and possibly through their memories, and certainly through their personalities.

Every time I accomplish something new, something hard, something I was told I couldn't accomplish, I think of my dad, and thank him for giving me the drive to do what can't be done. Thanks, Dad, and Happy Father's Day.

Recent Comments

You made me cry

I wrote it not intending to make anyone cry (although conscious that a few probably would) but more to help us all understand the many ways a father can contribute to his daughter's character. I hope you think that he did OK.

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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