I don't remember what it was like to be two years old with a pregnant mother and a father who had three strokes in one day. What I do remember is how it affected my family. I know how that afternoon changed the course of my father's life, and mine. Together we were forced to struggle through a difficult recuperation period that continues to this day, 13 years later. My father will never be like he was, although in retrospect, I know it has made me a better person, and shown me what really matters.
Today I am a part of a one-income family that struggles paycheck to paycheck. I don't regret that, and I don't want pity. I have everything I need and some of what I want. My family's strong support has gotten us through six months of unemployment, a mini-stroke and bankruptcy.
Our love and hope has kept us together and happy. Even today we refuse to give up on each other or abandon the needs of family. During my lowest times, I always remember that no matter what, I still have my family.
In addition to my family, I treasure my memories. When my family is gone, I will have these. My father suffers from short-term memory deficit because of his strokes and I have seen how important memory is. Without our past and its lessons, how can we move into the future and grow? Whether happy or sad, each memory is a part of who we are. Without my memories I would be but a shell of myself; with them, I am complete.
Life has taught me what matters in this crazy, unpredictable and beautiful world. I cherish my family and my memories, and I know what I need to be. Even though I continue on the path that takes me to an unknown place, I know the necessity of remembering what matters.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.