It's a little hard to concentrate today. My sister called last night and my father isn't doing very well. He's had emphysema for years and time is taking its toll on him. He's sleeping a lot more, is weak when he tries to stand and gets exhausted moving from the couch to his bed...a distance of less than 12 feet.
I've been thinking of our tempestuous relationship over the years. I never seemed to be able to please him. He would often make fun of me or ridicule me, all for the sake of a laugh. But I never doubted that he loved me. See, I know what his childhood was like. The fact that he was able to love us as much as he did is amazing in light of how neglected he was. How did he learn love when he was shown so little of it growing up?
I know my mother had a lot to do with that. She could grow love in the bleakest heart. And she grew it in our hearts, my sisters and me.
For the first time, she's okay with my sister coming down to help her with Daddy. Always before, she and Daddy would take care of each other and didn't want our help at all. I remember when Mom had heart-valve replacement, he kicked us out (lovingly) because he wanted to take care of his wife. And according to Mom, he did an excellent job.
That she is willing to accept help tells me how scared she is.
I can't get down there for a couple of weeks because of Zach's school. I'm still debating whether to go down just yet. I come from hearty stock, let me tell you, and I'm not convinced the end is in sight yet. He's bounced back from some pretty serious stuff before. Emphysema, double bypass, meningitis, cancer.
But he's on my mind a lot today, especially in light of a decision I've been mulling over for the past several weeks. It certainly makes the decision a bit easier, I think. I can't discuss it publicly but those of you I know pretty well, I can tell you privately.
Oddly, thinking of him only brings to mind the good times. And they were many. He loved to go for drives on Sundays. He loved to take us on vacations. I remember the one vacation he tried to take with Mom without us kids and they ended up coming home days early because they both missed us so much. And we were disappointed because cousin Linda was babysitting and we were going to stay up late and watch Godzilla. Cousin Linda is one of the funniest people I know and watching a Japanese horror flick with her was better than Mystery Science Theater 2000.
I know he is proud of me. I hear it from other people. I also know how hard it is for him to admit it to me. It's okay. He doesn't have to. These things don't matter anymore.
None of that matters. What matters is he's been a good father and a good husband and a good grandpa. If a little cranky at times.
I'm glad I've been able to come to a place of peace in our relationship while there is still time to enjoy it. We've had some pretty good conversations the past few years, without any rancor. And I suspect we will have a lot more.
At least, I hope we will. I'm not ready to say goodbye yet. Don't make me say it, Daddy.