- Amber M. Rumbolo – I, Amber Rumbolo, was born on the 9th of December in the year of 1993. Two very different, yet inspirational people raised me in the small suburb of Saint Peters, Missouri. John and Lisa Rumbolo – the best parents anyone could ask for. My half-brother and half-sister, Dominic and Gina, lived in Virginia and are the only siblings that I have, all three of us coming from my father. Aside from that, my mother, father, and I had a pretty normal life as I matured. Mom stayed at home with me, periodically having a job at my elementary school and dance studio (I think she just wanted to keep tabs on me), while dad went to work at the Sunset Ford dealership every day. I vividly remember waiting for him to come through our white porch door, suit and tie, after a long day of work just begging him to grill us some of his famous ribs for dinner. He’s such a good cook – on the grill, that is. My dad played a significant role when I was a young – I was his little princess. He combed my hair before bed, tucked me in at night, saved me from the monsters in my dreams, and everything else that a little girl depends on. But somewhere along the way, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I’ve never known any specifics about his cancer due to the fact that he wants to protect me from reality. But despite the negativity that became his life, all the way from elementary school through the beginning of high school, my father did everything for me. He drove me to school every single day, he did my laundry, he took me to dance class, he went to every dance competition, he pushed me to get straight A’s, he encouraged me to only accept what I deserve, etc. Every time I looked back, my dad was there for me. He was, and still is to this day, my source of getting through each and every day. Even when I decided to be a stereotypical, impertinent teenager, my father continued to spoil me with his love and affection. But I remember it distinctly, the day that changed everything. During the summer of 2009, I was lying on the trampoline with my three best friends – it was a daily activity that summer. But this time it was disrupted when I got the phone call from my mother. With an unusual worry in her voice, she told me something serious happened to dad and was heading to the hospital immediately. When I arrived, I had learned that my father had suffered from a severe stroke resulting in paralysis of the right side of his body. I thought to myself, “but he can recover right?” Barely. I did not think it was real, at first. Life seemed like a dark, confusing dream. How could something so terrible, happen to my protector – my rock? From then on out, my life completely changed. We later learned that my dad was left alone for about four hours after his stroke. He was folding my laundry in my bedroom, as always, when the stroke occurred. He collapsed to the ground face down next to my bed and cried for help, but his muffled voice was lost in the midst of the carpeted floor. Ever since I knew of this, the thought of it being my fault haunts me. He was doing something for me when it happened. Where was I when he needed me? He’s always there for me, and the one time he needed me, I wasn’t. It was a rough start. Physical therapy was too much of a mental overload for my father. The man who taught me to never give up, gave up on his recovery. My dad could no longer work, leaving us with only one working parent within the house. My mom took on three jobs at one point so I could continue to live a “normal, happy life.” My dad could no longer cook those barbeque ribs that I craved almost every night. He could no longer easily take me wherever I needed to go. As much as I hate to say it, the stroke put all of our lives into slow motion. Not only have our daily routines changed, but also our relationship has been tested throughout the past five years. My dad’s stroke truly messed with his brain. His normal emotions were reversed and multiplied by ten. He got extremely angry when he was unhappy and cried when he was content; his emotions were a roller coaster that I could not ride along with. I had to and still have to constantly remind myself that this is not the father that I have always known. He is still there for the majority, but I have to compensate with the disturbed chemical engineering of his thought processes due to the paralysis of his brain. Not just our relationship has been affected forever, but his relationship with my mother and three nephews as well. Three years after the stroke, my mother and father split due to the intense change in attitude and tiring journey. My father is also a grandfather to three beautiful baby boys. He can’t hold them; he can’t take care of them like he took care of me. The stroke robbed him of the rest of his life. I have never seen my rock so destroyed. The stroke, along with the cancer, has put a frustrating restraint on my father’s life, my mother’s life, and mine. It has been five years of living with this huge change, and I am still severely struggling with the consequences. However, it is now my turn to be my father’s rock, as even still, he continues to be mine. My father has made numerous things in my life happen: allowing me to attend both Arizona State University and the University of Missouri. He even drove me 22 hours straight through to Arizona to attend a tryout dance clinic with just a one day notice. He continues to attend any dance events that I perform at and does everything he can for me, despite all of the tragedy that has fallen upon him. I can only hope that one day, however difficult it may be, my father is still there to meet the love of my life, walk me down the aisle, lay with his grandchildren, and witness me loving someone as much as he has loved me. But if I have learned anything from my father, I must be prepared to conquer anything life throws at me. My father has taught me to be the strong, courageous fighter that I am today. He has prepared me for anything that may come my way, and that is something that I cherish immensely.
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