From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Lessons from a Teenager

The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.

Victor Hugo

My dad retired young because of heart problems. To help fill the time, he volunteered at my high school as a hall monitor. He had been doing it for a few years before I entered into ninth grade. I told him I didn’t want him to stay there my freshman year. I kind of wanted to go through the school year without having to be known as a daddy’s girl because him volunteering there meant me seeing him every day before lunch. On the inside I was praying he would ignore everything I said and go anyway because I was a nervous wreck about going into high school.

I liked it when he was there because it kind of made me feel safe knowing he was going to be in the school if I needed him. I was a freshman and not used to the idea of high school yet. He waited outside the cafeteria when he knew I would be going to lunch. We exchanged smiles, once in a while a wave. On rare occasions we actually talked for a few minutes before I caught up with my friends for lunch.

Although in school I acted as though I barely knew him, I loved being known as his daughter.

“Courtney Soucy?” said my art teacher, taking attendance.

“Right here,” I answered.

“Any relation to Wayne?” This caught me by surprise because although my dad had been at the school for a few years, he wasn’t actually part of the staff, just a volunteer.

Through my first week as a freshman, almost every one of my teachers asked if I was Wayne’s daughter. When I said yes, they usually replied with something along the lines of, “You’ll be a pleasure to have in class; your dad’s such a nice guy.”

I never met any teacher, let alone any person, who said they didn’t like my dad. He was very funny and always had a smile on his face. He was the life of every party we went to, always cracking everybody up with his witty remarks and corny jokes. His light blue eyes reflected his cheerful nature—he was never grim or gloomy. People in our small town referred to him as “the mayor” because on walks around our neighborhood, he made at least ten stops to talk to people. When someone needed a place for their kid to stay while they ran a few errands, my dad volunteered to be the baby-sitter. In the summertime, our pool became the community pool with my dad as the lifeguard. He was surrounded by screaming kids all day, but he loved every minute of it. My friends soon became my dad’s friends; he was such a lovable guy.

I don’t remember any specific time when I just came out and told my dad I loved him. Sometimes we’d get into stupid fights about why I couldn’t spend the night at Chelsea’s, or why I couldn’t go to the movies with Kelsey. Even though there was a lot of screaming and yelling, the disagreements never lasted very long.

One night I stormed up the stairs to my bedroom. “Dad, you’re a jerk, and I hate you!” Just another fight, I thought as I cried myself to sleep.

The next day I got myself ready, not even thinking about our fight the night before. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember what the fight was about. We always forgot about our arguments because they were pretty meaningless. This fight appeared meaningless, too, until around 4:30 that afternoon.

I had a softball game at 4:00. We warmed up as usual. My dad and sisters, Brianna and Angela, showed up a little early, ready to watch the game. My mom rarely got out of work in time to see my games, but Dad was always there to watch. About five minutes into the game, I heard my mom screaming for a cell phone. She’d gotten out early, only to find Dad unconscious on the side of the field.

The paramedics rushed Dad to the hospital in an ambulance. Mom and I followed them in a police car, holding hands and praying all the way. Ten minutes later, Dad was pronounced dead from a second heart attack.

It was the worst day of my life. I’m sure many people have said that on occasion when they have a bad hair day, when they forget to do their homework, sure it’s a rough day. But I’ve had those days before, and they didn’t compare to what May 6th was for me. My mind wandered, nervously thinking about the past weekend, what had gone on, what I did with Dad, trying hard to remember his last few days. My thoughts were blank until tears cascaded endlessly down my cheeks, remembering what my last words were to him: “I hate you.” I hadn’t realized until then how much I didn’t mean that.

People live each day knowing there’s always going to be tomorrow to make up for today’s mistakes. I thought the same thing. Never did it cross my mind that I would get into another stupid fight and then never get the chance to apologize to my dad.

I’m not writing this for sympathy, because I have enough of that. I’m writing this as a warning to others who still have their dads. It’s hard growing up as a young girl with a “crazy” dad. It can be fun at times, and terribly embarrassing at others. Nevertheless, cherish the times you spend with your fathers. There’s a small chance that tomorrow won’t come. That you won’t get that chance to say your “sorrys,” your “good-byes” or your “remember the time whens.” Don’t disregard this and think, That will never happen to me. I thought the same thing—and it did happen.

Please make it so it isn’t too late to say your “I love yous” to your dad, your mom, your friends, your family; make it so they all know you love them. The world will be a better place when you do.

Courtney Soucy

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