I’m Gonna Miss Dad

Dad’s paper wasn’t delivered in the morning so I went to get him one after work. I picked up a couple extra bananas too and took a walk to the hot bar to see if I might find something for Todd and me for dinner. They had hamburgers and brats and sauerkraut, mac and cheese—all the things that remind me of Dad. I remembered all the times I’d come there to pick up a quick dinner for him—after an afternoon at the doctor’s or one of those long hospital stays.
My arms held the paper, some blueberries and bananas so when I felt the tear roll down my right cheek, I reached to wipe it but dropped a banana. I bent down to pick it up and felt the spasm in my back from sneezing on Sunday seize up. It’s hard to carry large loads of emotion around with you all the time. I’m working on that but I’m going to really miss my dad.
When I got back to the condo, I handed him his paper. His head was tucked down as he does so he can swallow but I knew he was getting ready to say something. I waited.
“I felt really bad sending you for my paper.”
“You didn’t send me, Dad. I wanted to go. I needed a few things.”
“Well, I love reading the paper but I realized after you left that I’d rather talk to you.”
I sat back into the couch then. “Well, here I am! You can have both!”
We did talk for a while but I felt the usual pull of needing to be in two places at once. I have a wonderful staff that seems to understand and have tried to extend the same support to them. My Dad raised us to put God first, family second and work third. (That’s not easy.) And I have a wonderful husband who seems to understand. None the less, my back aches and like Dad, I’m eating less and sleeping more. Letting go isn’t for the weak.
Dad is very organized and had his Power of Attorney papers completed with his attorney years ago while Mom was still alive. I will have to take the lead on what it says and the most challenging part of it is the last line. Dad has written in a scripture: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10). Mom had said the same thing to me in her own words: “I don’t want you crying over me. It’s just my time.” I had promised her I wouldn’t. But I did.
So, when I was in the kitchen of Dad’s condo last night, putting his dishes in the dishwasher, tears rolled down my cheeks. My hands were full so I couldn’t brush them away. I felt the strong urge to go back and sit down with Dad and tell him I’m going to really miss him when he’s gone. But I didn’t. I knew I would cry and didn’t want to upset him.
I want to be faithful to the Words I read in his Power of Attorney. They are important to him and I know, powerful. I told him when I started writing his stories that I would be sure to let people know that he was happy about going home to Jesus. He corrected me that day. His eyes beamed. “Happy?” He said. Joyous! Why, I’ll be Joyous!”
In my experience, God has always provided what I needed just at the right time. I’m certain He will provide Joy in my heart for a life well-lived when the time comes. Because that’s what I want to share from Dad to you.
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Well-Rested

Dad called at 1:00 pm today: Hi Debs, I just called to let you know I’m still alive!

Me: Is everything okay, Dad?

Dad: Yeah (he chuckles). I just slept til 1:00!

He sleeps later and eats less but his sense of humor and spirit are great.

Me: Well, you’re well-rested! I’ll come over and warm up your breakfast.
(I drop what I’m doing and arrive just as he is reaching for his shoes. I hand him one.)

Dad: I think I should call my doctor and let her know how much I’m sleeping.

Me: What will she do, Dad, give you something to stay awake? (He chuckles again.) I think you look well-rested.

His Cream of Wheat has turned to a brick by now so I thin it with Ensure and warm it up. I wait for him to get off the phone with the Journal, (His paper wasn’t delivered again this morning, he loves his paper) making me late for a meeting but that’s the way these days go. I tell him I’ll pick up a paper after work and give him a kiss.

Dad: Thank you sweetheart. I love it when you stop by.

He smiles the smile that melts my heart: Do I look well-rested…?

Yep, well-rested!

I love my Dad.

Preparing for Landing

After two years of Sundays and many other days with Dad, I climbed the steps to our attic thinking of him flying his plane upward to see the forest from the trees. Living in a house filled with so much history—not to mention the sleds, skates and saddles, my mom’s wedding dress and a filing cabinet we can’t open—I knew it was time I did the same. I have held onto things to keep memories alive.

I walked first to a little corner under the eave where on one sentimental Saturday I pulled a bag of dolls from the attic to take to Goodwill. I organized them into a tea party instead. Seeing the hand-stitched clothes and miniature china dishes I had paid for with my allowance reminded me of the dreams I had then. Pack them up, Debbie, for the children. It’s time for new dreams.

I moved on from the eave to my late brother’s bedroom filled with the boxes of photos, papers and relics I have gone through over and over and thought of the thousands of words I have written about my family so I wouldn’t forget. Release the beauty you have discovered through writing your stories. They were never yours to keep.

I have been given a great gift of love—time with my parents, first with my mom and now with my dad as he lives out his glory days on earth. I have been able to hold them in their frailty and feel their strength, absorb their love and gather up their wisdom and the experiences of their—not perfect—but well-lived lives. I will remember with peace who they were and are, and can only imagine who they will one day be when we are all together again celebrating endless life with love and laughter, no fear, no pain.

My dad’s cook, Kay, recently told me how grateful she was for her daughter and didn’t know how aging parents get along if they don’t have children who are willing to help care for them. I told her I didn’t know how adult children get along without the parents who had cared for them.

I circled around the attic haven of memories and artifacts and prepared to make my descent like a plane preparing to land. Checking in with Control Tower, I said a prayer and as I walked down the steps, I knew that my fears of loss and emptiness in life, in me, in death, were overcome when the Easter tomb was found empty. The light of understanding what that fully means will continue to grow in my heart. It’s reflected all around us—from herbs to wheat to Morning Glories—that from death, springs new life which is God’s boundless gift.

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Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

(Isaiah 60:1 NIV)