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Irondequoit High School, Rochester, New York

My dad and I have always had a special bond. My mom always told me, “You know, Oulia, your dad knew from the very first day you were born that you would have a special bond with him.” I love the story of when my dad first held me in his arms. I make my mom repeat it all the time. I have so many memories with my dad, but my favorite memory is the summer of 2019 when my dad and I would wake up every day at 6 am to walk along the beach. I remember those long walks like they were yesterday: the sounds of the birds chirping, the sound of the beach waves, but most importantly the sound of my dad's voice, laughing and giving me advice. I valued his advice then and still do to this day; it encourages me to do my best. I know parents say that they do not have favorites, but I think it is safe to say I am my dad's favorite, and honestly, he is my favorite, too. My dad is the one person in my life who can instantly cheer me up. He is like magic. I could never imagine the world without my dad in it.

The day my dad had a heart attack is the day I changed forever. I was coming home from school, an award in my hand, a smile plastered on my face, thrilled to show my parents. However, what I discovered wiped the smile off my face instantly. I saw my dad suffering in agony. I was confused. I was only 11 years old. My heart felt heavy when I saw my dad grabbing his chest and yelling in pain. I thought I was going to lose him at that moment. My dad was in denial that it might be a heart attack until later it was confirmed at the hospital.

During the two weeks my dad was at the hospital, I was home. I did not want to go to school, I did not have an appetite, and all I could manage to do was stare at the ceiling. I felt awful. Had I even said “I love you” to my dad that morning? Did I ever tell my dad he is my everything? Did I ever mention to him that the only thing that gets me through the week is knowing I get to spend all weekend with him? These thoughts filled my head like a virus. I was anguished: did it take me almost losing my dad to realize how much he meant to me? Why don’t I ever mention to my family members that I love them? When I realized how close I was to losing my dad I was a wreck. Why? Because I knew I had not not shown him how much he really means to me. I did not show him how his existence in my life is the thing that matters to me most.

I realized I needed to change myself. I needed to be more affectionate towards my family. Throwing a quick “I love you” before heading to school wouldn’t hurt. Hugging my siblings is not gross. Visiting my grandparents more often is not a challenging task. I never used to put effort into these things. However, since that day when I almost lost my dad, I realized that these are simple things that make a significant difference. Tomorrow is not promised. It is not guaranteed that tomorrow you will be able to hug your parents or tell your siblings you love them. Do not wait for something to happen for you to realize how much the people you love mean to you. You will only live with regret. So be affectionate, give hugs, kisses, gifts or even a simple “I love you.” It makes an enormous difference.

© Oulia. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.


  • Family
  • Loneliness, Doubt or Loss
  • Mentors