Live Resiliently, Live Inspired, LIVESTRONG

October 27, 2008
By
I flew home last week for my father's birthday. We lived in the house he built on the outskirts of Anaconda, Montana. I drove up around midmorning, alone, to the hilltop where his ashes lay among two dozen other simple stones. The warm summer breeze flew in from the west, spilling over Mt. Haggin and rustling the yellow grass beneath me. He would have been 47 years old.
No one visits the graveyard except for me. My mother and my sister won't talk about it ' if they don't face the truth, it might not be real. I'm different. I knelt at the headstone, closed my eyes, and saw Daddy giving me that goofy smile. Fire-truck-red hair, Notre Dame lacrosse scars, a thousand freckles ' I can't avoid him because he never leaves my side.
When I got home, my mom's car was gone, as usual. I found my sister alone in the living room, Sweet Tart packets strewn around her. Daddy loved to eat Sweet Tarts. We sat together in solemn silence, lost for words, silently remembering how it felt to have a family, before its roots were pulled. My mother became the missing piece to a different family; my sister and I were sent to different boarding schools. Natasha and I became independent, ambitious, mature. He would have been proud of his daughters. But it took endurance.
I was a miserable student for two years at Culver Academies. Each achievement seemed worthless without Daddy's praise, so I stopped trying to achieve. But I eventually found strong support in a new family, the CGA Swim Team. We support each other, push each other through hard practices, hard school work, and hard times.

I'm back at Culver today, back with the family I'm now gaining strength from. My real family hasn't been able to help me much. Senior year is flying by as I search for a college with a strong community and a close-knit family. I'm wearing my father's LIVESTRONG bracelet. He never took it off; it motivated him through the cancer. The same bracelet now motivates me. I am a strong, independent young woman he would have been proud of.
It's windy outside this afternoon and I can feel my father's spirit. It's in the wind flowing from the west, rippling the waters of Lake Maxinkuckee and rustling the green grass beneath me.





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