Submitted by Robert Springer
As far back as I can remember my father would, on occasion, have episodes where we were told he was just not feeling too well. At those times we kids stayed quiet and left him alone.
When I was old enough, my mother explained that my father had suffered a bike injury when he was very young and had been diagnosed with epilepsy after that accident.
At that time, the world was tied up in WWII and my father’s older brother was in the Navy. As much as my father wanted and tried, he could not serve the U.S., and unfortunately, his mother made him aware of this whenever she could. She did not truly mean to hurt him; she was just very proud of her older son. My father did what he could; he collected scrap metal and had three victory gardens throughout Columbus, Ohio.
As I got older, I realized how much pain my father was in – both physically and mentally. He loved this country, and he was haunted by the fact that he could not serve. Additionally, at that time our nation looked down on those who had illnesses that could lead to seizures and other discomforting episodes for employers.
My father was forced to lead two lives: one at home where he didn’t have to hide the fact that he could have a seizure without warning and his second and more terrifying life at work where he could get fired for having a seizure.
Despite all of this, my father guided many young boys into Boy Scouts, and he worked with troubled teens from the Boys Home in Columbus. When I was of age, he led me into the Scouts, and he showed me that we all have bumps in the road but that God would never put something in front of us without helping us navigate those obstacles.
I became an Eagle Scout when I had just turned 14, and I have to say that I had never seen my father more proud, for years after he introduced me as “My son, the Eagle Scout.”
Sadly, all of the years of uncontrolled seizures did serious damage to my father’s mind and eventually he passed, not peacefully in any fashion. He was haunted and could no longer face the many demons that seemed to haunt him.
At that time I was a young man in college, and I was truly angry with my father for leaving this world without talking to me. I worked through that stage, and many other stages of grief, and I came to realize that my father had built me to be a survivor. I knew there was “no obstacle too big” for me to face.
Less than seven months after my father’s passing, I had my first seizure. When I woke up in the emergency room, I knew I had experienced a seizure but refused to accept it. I was given a script to control the seizures, and the world went on; doctors walked about like it was just another day. I was still very angry and fighting through what had happened to my father, and here I was facing the same evil in my life. Nope, I was not accepting my diagnosis at all.
I lasted six months without taking any medication, and then I had a second seizure. At that point, I accepted it, but I did not necessarily embrace my diagnosis yet. It took this stubborn person another year to truly embrace it.
Although it has been over twenty-seven years since that first seizure, I still thank my father for teaching me as a boy, as a Boy Scout, and as a young man that our good Lord never gives us more than we can handle.
I am now a father, and I worry every day that one of my children may develop epilepsy; however, I teach them what my father taught me. I am already very proud of my kids and my family and am also proud to say that my son is very close to earning his “Eagle Scout Award.”
So if, or when, you have a speed bump in front of you, look left, look right, and then look up and down: I am sure there will be a way to navigate your problems. There may not be an easy path, but look for the lessons to learn and keep going.
Yours in Scouting – R. D. S.