This is an ode to the bond between father and daughter and how it molded me into the woman I am today.
On May 17, 2016, Alfredo “Freddy” Espinosa passed away peacefully in his home from two types of aggressive cancer. He spent the weeks prior to his death surrounded by his family, including his wife of 40 years, three daughters and a son.
Al is my dad. He was the first man I ever loved, even though sometimes he made me cry. We had fabulous arguments where neither one of us was willing to budge from our intense point of view. He brought me to tears a couple of times, not with mean words, but because he just wouldn’t QUIT.
On May 17, he did quit. I don’t know how he struggled through weeks of hospice care and escaped the threat of death several times, even long after his highly credentialed medical team was ready to toss holy water on him and commend him to God.
A highly principled man, he refused the majority of his hospice medicines until the day of his death. He also drove us mad with his incomprehensible requests and insistence on using third person for himself.
If you have read my blog before, you know that family is super-important to me. When Dad’s mom passed away, I found the strength to lose 100 pounds so I could possibly leave a legacy as awesome as hers. Two years ago, Dad’s brother Uncle Frank passed away from liver cancer. Dad was by his side throughout this horrible illness, as they were very close.
What you may not know is a father’s love helped me stay strong when I wanted to quit. Half of the battle when it comes to significant weight loss and building a business is confidence in your own power to change and a positive mindset. This is the legacy that Dad left to me. I would love to share it with you, as well as special Dad-isms that will never die.
When I was younger, Dad taught me to ride a bike. He would stand behind me, holding onto the yellow banana seat of my two-wheeler and steady me while I learned the mechanics of peddling.
One fine day, I was mastering the art of peddling and looked back to share my success with Dad. He was blurry in the distance. Without me knowing it, he had let the back of my seat go. He knew I was ready before I did.
Just a few weeks ago, Dad asked me to stand behind him and his walker so he didn’t fall when walking around my childhood home. There were a couple of really scary times when he did fall to the floor with his grossly swollen feet, and even two of his adult children struggled to get him back on his feet. However, he always trusted me to be there for him when he fell. It was humbling and validating to know that I could be the one to steady HIM when he was shaky.
When I was younger, Dad spent the whole summer with his four kids. We watched old movies like the original “Robin Hood” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World”, cooked Ramen noodles and corned beef hash, and rode our bikes to the local Dairy Queen. Whenever I got an A in school (something which happened more often than not), he would treat me to a blizzard at Dairy Queen.
Just a few weeks ago, Dad’s precious TV was quiet. The only movies he wanted to watch were his homemade videos of the fabulous trips he took around the US with my mom and siblings. He even asked if I wanted to watch footage of my own wedding from 14 years ago. Dad did not want to eat much of anything- not even his beloved hash or refried beans. At least he got to enjoy a Dilly bar.
When I was in junior high, Dad told me I could be the first female President. I used to hate when he would religiously watch that darned McNeil Lehrer Newshour every night at 6. Ironically, I ended up graduating from the University of MN with a degree in Global Studies, which includes politics.
He never doubted that I had both the intelligence and strength to be a powerful leader someday. Dad has always been passionate about politics, and I appreciate that he thought I could hold the highest office in the land.
Just a few weeks ago, Dad was hopeful to hear Bernie Sanders speak at Carthage College in Wisconsin. He was not as sick at that time, but my daughters and I were visiting him for a week. He spoke frequently about Sanders, and was pretty public about his support. In the end, he decided to spend the day with his granddaughters and I. I don’t know his motivations, but I was thankful.
When I was in high school, Dad went to graduate school at Carthage College. Both of my parents have a Bachelor’s degree, but Ma never showed an interest in further education. This was a powerful lesson for me.
In fact, studies show that children of parents who have graduate degrees are more likely to also earn graduate degrees. Both my oldest sister Steph and I have graduate degrees.
I remember Dad talking about one of his favorite classes, “Death and Dying”. I am not sure why this was one of his favorites, but I loved when he shared with me some of the interesting concepts from this class. I was at his graduation, just as he attended all of my graduations- from high school to grad school.
Just a few weeks ago, Dad was hopeful for a successful treatment for his liver cancer. He had already completed the initial radiation procedure, and it seemed to make a difference. I am certain that death was NOT on his mind. Although he asked for Last Rites, a Catholic ritual performed by a priest to those who are terminally ill, I am still not sure whether he really accepted that the Grim Reaper would be one of many visitors to his home.
Just a few days before I left, he told me several times that he was “tired” and “cold”. This was almost two weeks after his hospice nurses told us he was nearing the end of life.
What could a daughter do?
- I gave him my gloves so his fingers wouldn’t be ice cold.
- I helped him get comfortable in his hospital bed so he could try to get some peaceful sleep.
- I massaged his swollen and discolored legs to relieve some of his suffering.
- I enticed his taste buds with fresh smoothies and his favorite foods.
I cried and told him I loved him. I hope that on some level, he understood that while death does not scare me, watching him die did. I was terrified that he would pass away while we thought he was sleeping his bed.
While he did not actively help me lose 100 pounds, the legacy he left me had everything to do with how I feel about myself today.
Dad's legacy shaped me in to the woman I am today- a woman with confidence, positivity and strength. Click To Tweet
Here are some Dad-isms that I had to share.
∞ ♥ “Good thing I’m cute”
I have never worried that I am not attractive 🙂 Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “A legend in her own mind”
Getting in front of an audience to speak about my stories is one of my passions. No, I am not even close to legendary, though I hope to inspire. Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “There’s plenty for everyone”
Even if he watched his own plate like a hawk and conversation never happened until he finished the serious business of eating, he was right. There is no rush, because we can have it all. Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “You can—“
From being the first female President (no thanks) to getting into an Ivy League school (they said no) to being the best parent I know how, Dad always believed not just in what I could do, but also what I ended up doing. Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “Ask your mother”
I thought this was his way of copping out when it came to decision-making. After some talks with Ma, this was not the case. Dad and Ma had a united front when it came to parenting, and I think the four of us kids turned out ok. Plus, as a wife, I can’t help but appreciate deferring to a spouse 🙂 Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “Did you need me to–?”
When I came to Minnesota for college, Dad came with me. He helped me choose an apartment that was NOT in the ghetto, fixed my car when my transmission blew out, and offered his trailer for my many moves from one place to another.
When I got married, he danced with me at my wedding, witnessed the birth of my daughter (his first grandchild), accepted my choices as a wife and mom, and was always available when I called him. Thanks, Dad.
∞ ♥ “I’m proud of you”
My family was not very touchy-feely, but this phrase always warmed my heart like a big comforting hug. Dad was always open and honest about his feelings, no matter what others might think. Sometimes that backfired into one of our infamous arguments. Other times, it made me feel like the most special person in the world. Thanks, Dad.
I have talked about legacy before- both my grandmother’s legacy and now my dad’s. I still don’t know what my own legacy may be. Maybe it will be helping hundreds of woman feel confident about their bodies and health. Maybe it will be being the best mom I can possibly be. Maybe it will be supporting those in my life who are most in need, whether it is a friend who is going through romantic heartache, the mom who is watching her partner suffer, or the man who raised me asking for a hand.
I am blessed to be the daughter of such an amazing role model and man.