The Gift of His Existence: Honoring Steve Rodimak
The Gift of His Existence
A man of bravery and strength lives just a few footsteps away from me.
He is not a knight or a soldier. He is not a doctor or a lawyer.
He is but a man battling a life-threatening disease.
Every day is filled with challenges and disappointments, but end in a deserving triumph.
Each and every day, I see him conquering his pain, and then explode with happiness. Although there is an overwhelming amount of doctors’ appointments, his chin is lifted as far as his body will let it and continues on.
He is my inspiration.
He is my step dad, Steve Rodimak.
His horrific disease is otherwise known as Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).Very simply, it is a disease of spinal arthritis. Not only does it attack one’s health, but also their mentality. An abundance of doctors have explained to Steve that he wouldn’t live to see forty. Here he is today, at the age of forty-six, active and perfectly responsive. I remember him telling me that he once died during surgery, but was rescued by those around him. He then explained his life expectancy and tears raced down my face.
I hugged him as tight as I could without hurting him, showing him my appreciation.
Understanding his condition is practically impossible.
I can only imagine…
Being diagnosed with several other diseases caused by this one; being forced to look at an x-ray of my back full of metal; dealing with the fact the second my foot meets the cold ground or water, the metal rod in my back vibrates with shivers; having the impossibility of turning my head without the harsh burn of fire pierce into my neck; not having the ability to stand straight and tall; having the possibility of death from a simple, short fall; spending a thousand dollars on medication that may or may not be serving its purpose of helping him; waking up to a day of more pain. And the infinite list only goes on.
Every Saturday morning, I lay down next to a tired Steve underneath the warm, cozy blankets. There, we watch Ellen DeGeneres’ show and sometimes The View. The air is so thick of warmth that I can almost smell this place of peace, humor and love. The most difficult part of spending time with Steve in morning is that it is the most challenging part of the day for him. It is an extremely long, painful experience as a bystander. However, it isn’t even merely the pain he feels. He explains to me that mornings are worse than the several hefty, dreadful needles that he is poked with every few weeks. The sickening feeling that runs through all of my veins force my muscles to tighten and destroy my heart. I know that I cannot do anything that will take the pain away,
Which is what is the most tragic. With eyes barely open, even as a stranger, it is still easy to see that he needs help. However, the only way I can help him is through warmth, comfort and devotion – which is exactly what I do.
Each day, I pretend that it is our last day together. I have learned several life lessons through the presence of Steve, that being one of them.
Distractions are Steve’s best friend currently. Ironically, our dog being one of them. His name is Sam and he spends almost every minute by Steve’s side. His wagging tail and smile is what mainly generates Steve’s glow. With Sam around, Steve stands a little bit taller. Seeing and being with his golden pal, he is a different man. I can see the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth form with joy. Whenever they aren’t with each other, they experience separation anxiety. I can see that Steve bites his nails more often than usual, his eyes grow wider, and his slouch turn heavier. Seeing the two of them together fills a different kind of warmth through my body. It is something that even a picture or description couldn’t capture and explain. Their relationship is something unique and made up of truelove, passion and desperation. Other distractions such as humming, singing, nail-biting, fishing, hunting and jokes also assist him in pushing through each day successfully.
They are what allow him to hold on; therefore, what allow me to hold on.
Running errands with him is (aside from our Saturday mornings together) one of the most delightful experiences of my life. It is strange to think that an event so simple could be so powerful and significant. I am able to witness something absolutely astonishing… It is how easily Steve is able to put a smile on the faces of people around him, never mind his own. Whether it is walking Sam, singing to and with the employees or even just acknowledging others, Steve always finds his way to be a lovable man.
Mind blown, and at a loss of words, all that I am physically capable of doing is standing still in awe. One specific example is when he rolls his windows down on a busy Saturday afternoon on Main Street in Littleton, New Hampshire. Traffic moving like a line of snails, he targets specific people and yells out to them. In most cases, he doesn’t know those people and they don’t know him. Another example is when we walk into stores together. A specific time was when we walked into the Tractor Supply store and he was singing Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses. His voice was filled with joy and I could see the power run through his body like a dam releasing its water. The people surrounding us chuckled and then sang along. With melodies lighting the room up, I was filled with a pulsating feeling of enjoyment and happiness.
It is difficult for me to say that I dislike anything about Steve.
I love too much about him for me to say so.
I love his smell of must and deer urine from hunting.
I love his singing of Journey and Rush in the shower.
I love his single shoe lift.
I love his intense collection of camouflage.
I love his entire personality. I especially love him.
Having Steve in my life is a rare, stunning treasure.
I am so thankful for the gift of his existence.