As Father’s day approaches I find myself thinking about “it”. About being both a Father and being a child – or in my case, a son. My Father isn’t a young man anymore, and he isn’t as healthy as he used to be. I was reminded of this even more when I recently visited him. He is older than I remembered and frailer than he used to be. But that is what happens when we get old.
My Father hasn’t always had an easy life, but he has had a good life. He hasn’t always had money, but he has always shared what he has. He always made sure that his family was cared for, and not just his four children, but his growing family. His twenty-plus grandchildren and at least as many great-grandchildren. It is still a growing family, and it is an extended family. My mother always “adopts” new family members, because they might be away from their own family. Or just because they need a hug. My Father wasn’t really one to give hugs when I was young. That was my mother’s job, but I always knew he loved me.
My Father taught us about the important things in life. To love the people close to you. And appreciate the blessings of having those people in your lives. He taught us to work hard, and to care about the job we do, to be proud of it. No matter what it is we do, make sure we do it the best we can. Ultimately, that is what is important – people will always listen to what we say, but our actions are much more important.
When I meet strangers and I tell them who my parents are, their faces tend to get a little brighter and their smiles a little broader. Then they proceed to tell me how my parents helped them, by opening their home to these “strangers”. To inviting them in and making them a part of their family. There was also an extra seat at the table, and extra bite of food, and even an extra spot to lay their heads.
The other night before dozing off my Father reminded me of some of his experiences as a child growing up in small town America. And it reminded me of going back to see the house I grew up in. As with most kids – we think our house and the trees around it are huge. It also reminded me of going back to visit it as an adult and seeing the house wasn’t as big I thought. I smile when I think of how our memories are different as children and as adults.
My Father is struggling with his failing memory, and sometimes I can see the confusion in his eyes. But when he smiles I can still see the life in his eyes. I don’t see an older man looking back at me with tired eyes. I see the Father I love, and I hope I can be as good a person as he is. I hope my Father is proud of the man I have become, as I am of the man that he has always been.
During my last visit, my Father’s physical therapist visited. He comes three times a week and they work on being able to stand up. It was maybe fifteen or twenty seconds each time, and despite the obvious pain my Father didn’t give up. Later, my Father commented that he would “keep on, keeping on.”
When I left to come home it was very late at night. I looked in on him, and saw him resting peacefully. I was about to go in and kiss him goodbye but I was afraid I would wake him up. So instead I gave my mother an extra kiss for him. I will call when I get home, because my mother asked me to. But, also so I can tell him again how much I love him.
As a Father I hope my kids are happy, and I hope they know how much I love them and how proud I am of them. They are two young, amazing people with their whole lives ahead of them. They can do anything they want, and I only want one thing for them. The same thing I have always wanted – for them to be happy. And when someone asked me about them recently I summed up who they are as ‘good people’. I love spending time with them, and maybe soon I will start telling them about my life growing up in small town America.
As they begin their adult lives, I want to tell them about the mistakes I have made. About the lessons I have learned. And if I do, I hope they will listen. But ultimately they have their own lessons to learn. And while I may be their Father, and as much as I want them to learn from my mistakes and experiences, I know they can’t. We are all our own selves, our own individuals.
Maybe that is the lesson my Father wanted me to learn all these years. That we are all individuals, and we all have our own lessons to learn. And no matter how much the lessons might hurt, or get us down, we have to “keep on, keeping on”. That we can’t ever give up on this life – its the only one we have. Because at the end of the day, we have a lot of blessings in our life. And I know that I don’t need a Father’s day to celebrate it, because I am blessed with a wonderful family and that makes every day a Father’s Day!