Thanks, Mom and Dad

My mom once joked that I make her look like my enemy on my blog. The force that I rebelled against as a youngster was my parents, so they get painted as the opposition sometimes. I’m proud of this rebellious streak, and attribute some of my success to it, but also know that I  would have none of what I have if it wasn’t for them.

Even ignoring the all-trumping donation of their genetic material, my parents, along with the rest of my family, are unquestionably the biggest positive force in my life. Although it doesn’t usually make it into sappy blog posts like this one, the truth is that every single day, I think about how incredibly lucky I am to have such incredible parents. If I dwell on the thought too long, I find myself fighting back tears of gratitude.

As someone who enjoys a huge degree of personal freedom, I am only now beginning to be able to comprehend the sacrifices that my parents have made for me. I was a difficult child even before I was born, giving my mother 36 hours of labor before finally popping out into the world. From that time until long after I left the house, she and my father put my needs above their own. It’s fair to say that for most or all of that time, I didn’t realize how profound this sacrifice was, let alone acknowledge it.

My mother taught me to eat healthily long before I would accept it or even entertain the idea. Despite my immature ridiculing of it and the high cost, she continued to buy organic vegetables to feed my siblings and I. Until seeing what was in other people’s fridges, and actually grocery shopping for myself, I didn’t realize how much more difficult and expensive it was to feed us healthy food.

She also prohibited us from watching TV, other than educational shows. I hated this and fought it, only to be told that I would some day be glad. She was right– the productive time I have now for programming and writing, which otherwise may have been spent on a TV addiction, I owe to her.

Mom also taught me to be stubborn and independent. I’m sure that she regretted passing this particular trait down during our frequent arguments about school, but I’m glad to have the ability to stand my ground now.

My father always did everything around the house by himself. He knocked down walls, rewired houses, fixed appliances, and plumbed things. I doubt we ever called a service man of any type. More than the technical skills and hand-me-down tools my father gave me, he taught me that it was okay to tackle a project without quite knowing how I’d be able to finish it. It took me a while to fully appreciate it, but he also taught me that it was important to do things well. With him, nothing was ever slapped together haphazardly.

He also has an amazing ability to put aside his own biases and be unconditionally supportive. Before my friends and I bought our school bus, he told me not to do it and warned that it was a big mistake. But once I defied him and bought it anyway, he helped make sure it wasn’t a mistake by showing up with snacks and a trunk full of tools. Once we’d finish one part of the project, he would be the first one to say, “Okay, what’s next?” and keep things moving.

Together, my parents created a household full of love and almost devoid of conflict. Indeed, any conflict I can think of was created by myself. I never saw my parents fight until close to the end of their marriage, well into my adulthood. Even that separation was done amicably.

My parents have always encouraged me to be independent and allowed me to follow my own path. When I was invited to go to Taiwan for the summer with my friend Charlie, they let me go. When I began to be interested in computers, my mom bought me a stack of computer books that I read cover-to-cover, and my dad built a wall-to-wall counter in my room to hold the four computers I bought at neighborhood yard sales.

Even though my parents were upset when I dropped out of school and became a professional gambler, they eventually accepted my decision and even allowed me to gamble under their names. With no condescension or resentment, they gave me the rest of my college money, knowing I would invest it in gambling. They always allowed me to make my own decisions.

When, at twenty, and funded only through gambling money, I wanted to buy a house, they let me get a home equity loan on their house, since I didn’t have the credit for a mortgage. I don’t think I’ve ever received such an unequivocal display of faith.

I can share little anecdotes, but I’m finding it impossible to articulate the immense gratitude I have for my parents, for the perfect childhood they gave me, and for the amazing siblings I shared it with. I’ve seen so many people whose lives seem to be spent reconciling events that took place in their childhood, an obstacle I’ve been spared. I know that whatever I’ve done with my life has only been possible thanks to the foundation put in place by my parents, and that only a small part of my happiness is truly due to my own effort.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

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Also due a tremendous amount of thanks is the rest of my family: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins.

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