I’m traveling the country to honor my dad who didn’t feel safe to do so

June 17, 2023

Written by Shari Leid – Published June 15, 2023 on Motherly and picked up by Yahoo Life

My dad’s heart stopped and my heart broke.

I won the lottery when it came to dads. My dad taught me how to ride a bike, how to tie my shoe, how to braid my hair, how to tell a joke and showed me by example when it is better to simply listen rather than speak. My dad taught me everything I needed to know to survive in life.

I was 31 years old when my dad died. My life changed overnight. I soon realized that much of what I worked for was done, in part, because it was fun to share my life with him. Seeing him happy when I experienced a win gave me joy. When he died, I had to figure out who I was without my biggest cheerleader.

My dad became my dad through adoption. He and my mom adopted me from Seoul, South Korea when I was a toddler. My adoptive parents were of Japanese-American descent. My dad was born in the basement of a rental home on Main Street in Seattle. My mom was born in a relatively large house on a farm on Bainbridge Island, an island that is a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle. They were the age of my peers’ grandparents at the time they adopted me. There was a generation between us.

Related: Watching you be a dad is more amazing than I ever thought it would be

The women I am meeting are of different races, education levels, economic levels, religious beliefs, political beliefs and range in age from 20s to 60s—with the belief that we can start a conversation, plant a seed of friendship, and find connection with everyone we meet when we look at what we have in common rather than what divides us.

I am about halfway through my project, and I am seeing our country the way I wish my dad could have seen and experienced it.

What warms my heart is that I’ve been seeing signs along the way that he is with me on my journey. He, like me, changed careers at mid-life. His second career—the one that was his natural fit and felt like his purpose—was as a math teacher for the deaf and hearing impaired at what was Seattle Central Community College’s Program for the Deaf. When I was in Nashville, walking down a street, I looked to my right and found myself standing in front of the Tennessee School for the Deaf. In Austin, on a pedicab tour, we peddled past the Texas School For the Deaf. When I was in Arizona, I had an extra day, which allowed me to visit a former high school friend, who I had not seen since our high school graduation day, and I learned that her daughter is hearing impaired.

Every time one of these unexpected reminders of my dad presents itself, I smile and send a thought up to the heavens, “Thank you, Dad, for taking this journey with me. The father-daughter trip of a lifetime.”

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