Time With Dad

Just recently, my ninety-year-old father took a tumble and fractured his right shoulder. After a short stint in the hospital and some time in rehab, he returned to his home of thirty-nine years. Realizing that Dad was not capable of caring for himself for the short term, my sister Connie, Aunt Gayle, and I agreed to watch him around the clock until he recovered.

Since my mother’s death almost three years ago, Dad had been amazingly self-sufficient, and nearly all visits to see him were for social reasons, simply to spend precious moments with the patriarch of the family. But nothing stays the same, and we all knew Dad would need our help at some point in time. It’s a blessed, sacred duty to care for a parent, and I was happy to do my part.

This morning was the first day I would care for Dad, and I took over for my sister, who had watched him not only the previous night, but also for most of the days since he arrived home. After a brief update on what his needs were, Connie left for her home in Tulsa and some all-important time with her husband. As I settled in, it didn’t take me long to discover that Dad’s requirements were minimal, such as walking alongside him when he had to go to the bathroom, fixing simple meals, and addressing the little needs that invariably cropped up.

Dad loved reading western novels, which allowed me the opportunity to mindfully survey the living area where we sat, the most obvious feature being a potpourri of family photos. When I used to deliver Mobile Meals to the elderly and infirm, one common feature of nearly all of their residences were these depictions of the past, somehow giving meaning to the present and also to the future. One photo in Dad’s house that brought a smile to my face was one of me and my daughters taken while river rafting in Colorado, bringing back all sorts of pleasant memories.

Hanging over the fireplace was a beautiful painting by family friend and artist Colleen King, showing sister Connie precariously crossing a stream on a log in Red River, New Mexico, where our family spent many summer vacations. On nearby bookshelves stood various ceramic angels that I had gifted my mother. She treasured her collection of winged, spiritual beings, and she never tired of receiving them for birthdays or Christmas. On the wall above and alongside the bookcase hung depictions of a number of glistening, golden birds in flight, reminding me of the classic book by Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. To my left, in an adjacent room was the dining room table, where my family celebrated many a Thanksgiving dinner.

I was flooded with memories as my father quietly read, yet I knew that these sacred moments I was now sharing with him would someday also be in the past, and the glue that held all of these recollections in their proper place – my father – would no longer physically be in the world. All of these symbols of his and my mother’s life would eventually be dispersed from the home, and one day another family with their own unique hopes and dreams would live in this space.

Yet now, my father is sitting in the same room with me and reading, moments sprinkled with conversation, laughter and sharing of thoughts. I value this time with him, and I’m honored to be caring for Dad, just as one day, when I was a young boy, he cared for me.

Present moment, wonderful moment.

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