epilepsy dad lesson i cant teach

The Lesson I Can’t Teach

When my wife told me that I was going to be a dad, I think I did what most guys do when they are given the same news…I freaked out. Once I had sufficiently calmed myself down, however, I did the next thing that many guys do…I thought about all the wisdom that I had to pass on and the lessons that I would be able to teach my child.

How to throw a ball.
How to tell a joke.
How to shoot a puck.
How to ride a bike.
How to program a computer.
How to cook a meal.
How to change a light switch.
How to drive a manual transmission car.

The first five years, I was checking things off my list all the time. My son had a wicked slapshot, he could throw a ball, and he could expertly tell three knock-knock jokes.

Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Banana.
Banana who?
Knock-knock.
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

(It’s still funny.)

Of course, that was before he had his first seizure. After that, his epilepsy got complicated. We spent weeks at a time in the hospital trying to get a handle on his seizures and, suddenly, my list didn’t matter. What mattered was something that I was woefully incapable of teaching him, and that was what it meant to live with epilepsy.

It was a punch to the gut. When I dreamed of being a father, it always involved my son coming to me with a question and me, for some reason around a campfire (we haven’t camped since long before he was born), wisely answering his question with a profound philosophical response, expounding on complex theories and providing fatherly guidance. But here he was, on only his fifth trip around the sun, and I had already run in to an answer that I could not give and a lesson that I could not teach.

I’m never going to be able to teach my son how to live with epilepsy. But I can teach him to never give up. I can teach him, even when life gets hard, to believe in himself and to stand up for himself. I can teach him that he can rely on his mother and me, and that he is never alone. And I can teach him that his life and what he can accomplish is still wide open.

In the end, these are the lessons that are most important, anyway.

2 thoughts on “The Lesson I Can’t Teach”

  1. My son has Epilepsy.. diagnosed at 13.. hardest day of my life. .. his Epilepsy became a lot harder.. and last year we were hitting 30 seizures a week.. we adapt everyday to the events but.. with adapting comes strength and now we are back to normal .. having a few every 6 months… we deal with the events as they happen.. keep strong.. laugh.. adapt and remain positive. Your story made me reflect and just wanted to say your doing a grand job.. thank you for sharing .. nobody understands how hard it is until they have to deal with it themselves.. xx

    1. Thank you, Heather. I’m happy for your progress. For those that haven’t been through it, it sounds unbelievable to be happy with only having a few seizures, but we’ve seen the dark side that comes from having countless seizures a day. By writing about it, I’m grateful to find other people that are on a similar journey. While I don’t wish this on anyone, it is comforting to know that we’re not alone. Best to you and your son and family. ~Dave

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