Below is a note I receive from my Father after he attended the 2012 ADAP Advocacy Associations 2nd Annual Leadership awards dinner, and watched me receive the ADAP Emerging Leader of the Year award, and then watched as I gave a rousing speech.
I want to acknowledge how very proud I am of you. You know your mother would be very proud as well. It seems like you have found you're calling in life. You have always had a passion for helping others; this goes back to your childhood years, when you used to volunteer at the senior citizen home that your grandfather lived in. I also remember when you were in 4H club in middle school, you volunteered at a home in Albany where children lived that were orphaned to AIDS or living with HIV and AIDS; you chose that volunteer opportunity over others and you talked about that experience for years!
In high school you volunteered for the school newspaper, and in the school library. Then you went onto college because you wanted to be a Nursing Home Administrator, and I remember you were prepared to head out to Colorado for an Administrator in Training program with one of the big nursing home chains. The summer you were to start the AIT training program, you went off to Europe backpacking instead and from your prior trip to Australia when you were in high school the travel bug bit you and you veered onto a different path. You built a career working in the travel industry, and climbed the corporate ladder at American Express. I know you're proud of your accomplishments in that field, but I also know how unfulfilled you felt in your job at times. It's ironic how you have come full circle and are actually now putting your health services management degree to use. Now start paying down those Federal Student AID Loans!
Before I get into more depth with this letter I need to get something off my chest, as I have thought about this often. Even though you were 25 years old when I left your Mother, I've realize the negative impact it had on you in your life, and I feel I am partially to blame for the rough road you traveled, mostly alone, for 7 years after our divorce. The passing of your grandfather and your mother's illness occurring soon after our divorce, these past 10 years have been rough on you and your brother John. I know you were not happy with how abruptly I left your mother, and I remember you vowed you would never speak to me. You may never come to terms with that decision I made, and you've mentioned how unfathomable it is that we were together for 31 years and haven't spoken once since the day I decided to walk out the door. These remarks by you speak to your character. I know it's hard for you to wrap your head around, but I can only hope it hasn't hindered you in your quest to find love. You deserve to find someone special!
I also want to acknowledge the challenges you faced growing up as a kid, the near daily bullying at school up until the 10th grade that you would come home crying about, the lost link with your brother, and your mother and I with our contentious marriage didn't make things any better for you. Your self-esteem and self-confidence was squashed by a lot of childhood events, and you were very shy, but over the years you have made A LOT of progress in these areas.
I saw this progress begin when you said at the age of 14 you wanted to go to Australia through a summer youth program. After working two jobs 30 hours a week for a year and half you were able to save the money needed to pay for the program and your flight. So at 16 you went away for a summer abroad to Sydney, Australia. These trips garnered friendships you didn't have at home, and each time you came back from an overseas trip I saw the rise in your confidence level and the shyness melting away. Then you decided to go away to college where you met a group of friends and exceled, and you were the 2nd out of a large family to ever even go to college! Then you decided to fix your crooked teeth, and were fitted for braces. Since you've had your braces off at age 20 you haven't stopped smiling!
You were smiling so much the night of the awards dinner and looked very happy. You exuded so much confidence and passion in the speech you delivered at the award ceremony. You'll always be my kid, but you have grown into a strong man, and I was honored to be part of a milestone in this new journey of your life. You know, as a kid you always wanted to be either a Meteorologist or a Writer/Journalist -- you couldn't get enough of CNN and the Weather Channel! You've told me how your love for news and writing is an important role in what you do today. It was showcased in that speech!
You have a unique ability to proactively identify problems in your life, and others and create and action plan to overcome them. You've proven this with so many decisions you've made in your life and with the health challenges you have faced, and you played an integral part in getting your mother onto the lung transplant list. You should be very proud how far you have come given all the struggles you have been through throughout the years. It's what makes you stronger, more knowledgeable and helpful to others. Giving the gift of hope and empowering others has got to be one of the most intrinsically rewarding gifts anyone could give! Struggles will continue to arise through life, and I know that when they present you will have the confidence and wisdom to overcome them. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help, while I may not be able to significantly contribute financially I will also be here to offer you emotional support.
I know it wasn't stated enough through words as a kid, but I want you to know you were and still are very loved, by me, and it goes without saying the love your mother has for you. Also, the love that emanated from the ballroom of the awards dinner last week was palpable; you were amongst friends that love the person your mother and I always knew you were -- A friendly, kind, caring, patient, compassionate and gentle soul with a lot of heart and love to give with a strong work ethic who's also a strategic and creative thinker, who's a self-starter, and flexible in any environment. . Kevin, you have stayed true to these and many other traits and values throughout your life, and they will continue to guide you in both your personal and professional career.
Please tell your friends how honored Shirley and I were to be amongst them at the ADAP Advocacy Association awards dinner and how special it means to me that they are part of your life. I can only hope for continued progress as you, your colleagues and friends in the community continue to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and advocate for the care and treatment people need to remain alive, healthy and productive living with HIV and Hepatitis C. I wish for the cure for you Kevin, your friends, and the millions of others around the world who are battling this ugly disease.
Please also extend to your Boss Bill and Brandon a thank you for, as you said in your speech, believing in you, also for their dedication they have shown over the years to this cause, and for the hospitality while Shirley and I were in town. I have always believed in you, and it can't be stated enough that I am so proud of you.