My special loved one was my Dad, Tekeste Mengistu. I had an amazing relationship with him. We had more than just a parent-child relationship; we were friends. He was one of my best friends, my role model and my source of strength and stability. I’m very lucky to have had such an incredible bond with him, and to have had someone like him impact my life in such a strong way.
Not many people have as strong of a relationship with his or her parents as I have had. People always tell me how lucky I am to have had that great of a relationship with my Dad, and how luck I am to have a great relationship with my Mom. I get that now. My parents are great, so I love talking about them. My Dad was truly an exceptional man: brave and wise, loving and warm. I honestly never run out of great things to say about him. I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl, and I consider myself beyond blessed to have had all the experiences that we did.
My reaction to my Dad’s diagnosis was pure devastation. January 18th, 2011 will forever be carved into my heart. That was the day that we got Dad’s diagnosis, and our lives were forever changed. During the few short weeks leading up to that date and especially when we were waiting for his results, it never once occurred to me that the diagnosis would be what it was. It was one of those selective realities, one of those “that won’t happen to us” moments. Little did I know what was to come… Even after the diagnosis and attempting to come to terms with it, I still held on strong to hope. Never once did I actually think that it was the beginning of the end. In my naïveté, I merely thought of it as a rough patch or something we had to get through, over, past
Through my Dad’s strength, I found strength. I was able to cope and try to be his source of strength when he needed it most. One thing that I’ll always hold near and dear is all the time I spent with him during those rough times. Like I said earlier, we had always been close, and if anything, his diagnosis made us grow closer. I didn’t take a single day with him for granted. It’s almost as though I was subconsciously fearing the worst, but not allowing that fear to show on the surface. Instead, I suppressed it by doing everything in my power to bring him comfort and keep him positive. In my heart, I know that positivity helped him. We shared some pretty deep moments and communicated our fear to one another without using actual words. That was pretty tough, to say the least. But I never once wanted to show him any weakness in order to keep him solid.
My Dad was dedicated to his family, and devoted to keeping us all together. After moving to Alexandria, Virginia from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1998 due to political turmoil, he made it a point to keep his focus on ensuring that my siblings and I never lost sight of the value of family. That was huge to him. My parents made sure that we remained a tight-knit unit despite being spread apart due to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the late 90’s. He overcame several obstacles to accomplish that, and placed himself as a low-priority as a result, and so I feel compelled to carry that on and ensure that we never lose sight of how much that meant to him.
This family closeness is part of the reason why it means so much to me that so many members of my family and our friends have participated in the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K for two years in a row. Our team (Team Nuthin But A T-Thang) has managed to touch others and inspire them to come together to find a positive light out of an otherwise dark cloud. Our first year, we won an award for raising the most funds as a team with me as top individual fundraiser. It meant the world to me. We won another award as a team our 2nd year, too. We did it for him. We did it for Dad.
Get Your Rear in Gear represents taking charge and getting it together for me. Get out there. Get aware. Do what you can to educate yourself and others about the importance of monitoring our health. My Dad was a healthy man, working out and eating healthy. But he let his health fall on the backburner, and we didn’t know he was sick until it was too late. I’d like to educate my Ethiopian and Eritrean community on the causes of Colon Cancer and how we can combat this disease together. I think it’s especially important for the youth to learn because we owe it to our parents and the older members of our community to help bring awareness, and collectively, bring about change. More specifically, by bringing awareness, we can save lives.