My father had a heart attack last Sunday. it was the last thing we expected. he never had heart trouble – a little indigestion on occasion – but nothing that ever would have alluded to the possibility of an actual medical emergency. he complained of indigestion and then woke my mother up when it didn’t go away and pain started radiating throughout his upper body. he began sweating and feeling nauseous so 911 was called and off to the hospital he rode.
Still thinking it was a minor thing, my mother and I went to visit him. Dad was smiling with great color as he told us that the surgeon had just come in to tell him he needed a triple bypass. when they did the surgery a few days later it turned out to be a quadruple bypass with a stint possibly needed in the future. 4 out of 5 pathways to his heart were clogging. 4 out of 5 lifelines were shutting down. but they didn’t.
My dad has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. my earliest memories are buying presents for children in need for Christmas and helping house and gather clothing for a family that had nowhere to go. his study is still adorned with photos of sponsored children, piles of charitable requests and notes on community suppers to cook for….along with a treasure trove of ancient historical goodies (he is a teacher of all things history) and thick philosophical novels (and a phd in philosophy) as well as the cheesiest horror movies of all time and a collection of pipes which will no longer get any use.
He started a community outreach program at Gould Academy where he tauht for 30 years. Known as Dr.O or Flash (depending on the years) he quietly wove his gift for helping better the world around us into the school community with little fanfare.
When he retired an award was named after him and my mother. The Ouwinga Citizenship Award:
“Named for Dr.Marvin T. Ouwinga, a history teacher at Gould for 30 years, this scholarship is awarded to a member of the Gould student body who embraces the spirit in which both the Ouwingas live their lives through acts of selflessness and thoughtful humanitarianism.”
I couldn’t be prouder to be my parents daughter if I tried. They have taught me through their actions that giving to others is the best gift I can give myself. That kindness costs nothing yet changes lives.
That deep love and attention never strayed from home either. My dad’s compassion encompasses communities, spans the world and yet has always remained strong and giving to my brother and I, my mom, our family and friends and the many students he taught. Whether he knows you or not he will lend a hand, a dish, a gentle push to get you back up on your feet. His cookies and cakes are legendary. His sweet smile and strong hugs melt away any worries the outside world throws at me. He doesn’t judge or question. He will never let me feel alone and has quietly guided me through many a tough time.
I never thought his heart might clog, I only thought it might explode from all the love it holds.