My father and I have never had a particularly close relationship. Or at least, that’s what I’ve always believed. Now I’m not so sure.
The problem has been my idea of a close relationship. I have quite a few of them. Always have. Comparing those relationships to the one I have with Dad led me to conclude that we weren’t all that close. To me, the glass looked empty.
But if I turn the lens around, I see that my father doesn’t have a lot in the way of close relationships. Never has. As I think about it, I realize that the people I would count as close to him number fewer than five–including me and my sister. Among that group, he’s closest to my sister. It startles me to realize I run a close second.
My father is a loner. His oldest sister is the same way. Whether the result of nature or nurture, I can’t say, but would guess both played a role.
He’s a hard worker, too, with a 25-year career with the Lexington Fire Department and more than 50 years laying ceramic tile. When he wasn’t working, he designed and built the house he’s lived in for more than 45 years, worked in his flower garden, and relaxed around the swimming pool he designed and built himself. He always has at least one home improvement project in the works. Or did.
Toodles and I made good time on the trip to Lexington yesterday–so much so that instead of going to the hotel first, I stopped at the house to see Dad. He was sitting up in his chair, eyes closed, about half the size he was five years ago. “Hey, old man,” I said. He’s 76–a good 20 years older than he ever thought he’d be. The “old man” moniker is one he feels he’s earned.
He opened his eyes, a blank look on his face. “Who are you?”
“Your son,” I said.
His face lit up. He reached his hands out to me, and I took them in mine, squeezing gently. Tears streamed down my face. That he was so glad to see me was an unexpected and unfamiliar surprise.
I gave him a couple of peaches, his favorite fruit. He hasn’t been eating anything, but he ate half of one right away, savoring the sweet juicy goodness that only comes from a tree-ripened peach.
We talked. He knows he’s dying and he had things he wanted to tell me. The first was how proud he is of me. He went on at length about this and it was clear he wanted to make sure I heard what he was saying. I don’t think he could see my tears. He told me about the funeral he’s planned with the help of a “great lady” from Hospice. He said she was a “great lady” at least half a dozen times. I need to meet this woman.
There’s so much more I want to say, but I can’t. Not now. I’m glad I’m here. Thanks for all the kind email messages and comments. I feel the love here in…
My Glass House