I Get It from My Dad

Delta Winds cover 2016Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


I Get It from My Dad

Kayla Holdaway

On March 22, 1997, my father got a call from Oak Valley Hospital with the results from a blood test. He had been waiting since March 10 to hear back from the doctors. For twelve days, a flood of emotions-impatience, eagerness, and nervousness-overwhelmed him. Then, finally, he heard the words he knew to be true all along: I was his. He told his boss, "I'm going to pick up my baby girl" and never looked back.

The nine months prior to that day were very difficult for my dad. He had discovered that his girlfriend, with whom he was living, was pregnant, while simultaneously finding out, from her other three children, that she had been cheating on him. To be spiteful, she insisted the baby was not his, and she was bent on giving it up for adoption. However, something-maybe it was fate or just a strong intuition-told him the child was his. After the much-anticipated paternity test and the long court dates, my dad became a single father overnight, with no clue how to raise an infant.

Not many men would step up and do what my father did. Also, not many would refuse help from family members, but that's just how stubborn my dad was. He would call it determination, which is not too far-fetched, but I believe it was mostly stubbornness. My grandma insisted he live with her so he wouldn't have to work so much to pay for rent, and she could watch me during the day. He mistook her offer for a challenge and rejected it.

For the first months of my life, my dad would drop me off at day-care, go to work, pick me up when he got off, go home, wake up every hour to take care of me, then get up and do it all over again the next day. He told me stories of how I could only fall asleep if I was lying on his chest. If, for any reason, there was a jerky movement or a hitch in my breath, he would instantly wake up to see if I was all right. Needless to say, he didn't get very much sleep during that first year. Things might have been easier if he had accepted my grandma's invitation to live with her, but that would have signified a failure in my father's eyes. Be that as it may, he worked hard to raise me and didn't give up.

I am much like my dad in that way. We both take things as a challenge if someone insinuates we can't do something. For example, when I was in first grade, my teacher would allow students to read a book in front of the class. She would always pick the same boy because his reading skills were very developed for his age. One day, she asked if there was anyone else who would like to give it a try. One of my hands shot up in the air with a book already in the other.

When she called on me to read I was so excited. I took a seat in the front of the room, my classmates surrounding me on the floor, and proceeded to read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. I gradually made it through the first couple of pages before I got stuck on the word "high." I just could not figure out what that word was. My teacher made no effort to hide her annoyance as she looked at the book and said, "That word is 'high.' Why don't you let someone else try to read?" I was embarrassed and, frankly, disappointed in myself.

From that day forward, I worked hard to expand my vocabulary and improve my reading skills. I read several books every day and tried to challenge myself with each one. My grandpa encouraged me by buying me books as my Christmas present. I would read those to myself and out loud until I had completed all of them. By the time I was in the third grade, I had to be put in special classes because my reading level was significantly higher than my grade level.

Even though my father refused my grandma's offer when I was first born, he has always stressed the importance of family. He did this discreetly through his actions rather than words. When I was seven, my dad married and over the next few years had my three siblings. He worked, and continues to work, hard to provide for us and keep us healthy. He also makes it a point to keep in touch with our family outside of Stockton. There is always time to make a random call or a spontaneous visit.

I have an aunt who is in her eighties, living on the outskirts of Riverbank. It is about an hour drive from here, but, to my dad, it's worth the trip. He often spends the day with her, talking or looking at her bountiful garden. It is because of these visits that she frequently posts on Facebook how much she loves my dad. I have adopted my dad's habit of making random calls on my family. I'll call just to catch up and see what I've missed.

I would be lying if I said I didn't inherit some of my dad's stubbornness. I can see it when I stick to my arguments even though I might be wrong. However, my father's stubbornness is not limited to the occasional banter. His recent motorcycle accident proves my point. Let me explain.

On September 1, 2014, my dad was in a serious motorcycle accident that left him with extensive injuries: he had a compound fracture on his right leg with pieces of bone missing from various places; the wrist on his left hand was broken; a tendon was displaced on his knuckle; severe road burn covered both the front and back of his body; and his left shoulder suffered nerve damage and ripped tendons. It will take years for him to acquire full mobility of his arm.

When he was moved from the hospital to a nursing home to recover, he had already been out of work for four months. His company told him it could hold his position for only another six months. The doctor told him he would probably need more than nine months to be in shape to work again since his job required a lot of moving around. Despite his inability to walk and move his arm properly, my dad checked himself out of the nursing home and told his boss he would be back at work within a few weeks. Upon hearing this news, his doctor, family, and close friends roared with disapproval. All the cautioning didn't faze him. He was back at work in the middle of December-wheelchair and all.

Living away from each other has caused us to collide at times. However, I believe this is because I am so much like him. I am at that point in my life where I am coming into myself and, as an eighteen-year-old, discovering who I am as a person. The more I grow, the more I catch myself saying or doing something that has my dad written all over it. Sometimes this horrifies me. Other times it makes me very proud. Although I would not want to live my life as he has, I wouldn't mind ending up like the person he is now. That person is someone who has embraced his challenges and who has overcome adversity. He is someone that I am proud to call my dad.