A Visit with Dad

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

11 responses to “A Visit with Dad”

  1. Reading this was the perfect way to start my day. I’m so thrilled that you made this journey – and so relieved and thankful for the reception. I almost want to say… walk away fast… LOL, with the sweet taste in your mouth of yesterday’s visit. Not sure how long you’re planning to stay, but I hope that all of your visits with him are as precious. Too many trips down memory lane might result in bumps and potholes that can take away from what you’re feeling right now. Even so, I’m delighted that your first encounter was such an enlightening and encouraging time for you. Hold tightly to those feelings. I pray that the remainder of your visit will further cement the relationship. Your next trip home will probably be to pay your respects – which makes this trip all the more special. I’m happy for you and the Old Man. I think you’ve done a beautiful thing here – for the both of you.

  2. Oh Michael! OMG! I’m wearing tears now….Life doesn’t get more sobering than this.
    Cathy B. said it all; she’s very wise….tell her I said so, in case she doesn’t read the comments.
    I am SO totally touched. Thank you for letting us know about your visit. xxooo

  3. Michael,
    I am so glad that your visit with your dad went this way. I have tears now too!! I think when our parents age they finally realize just what wonderful children they have! I hope the rest of weekend goes as planned. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. I’m going to hug my parents now and tell them how much I love them!

  4. Bless you, Michael. And your Dad, too. I have recently had a similar experience with my Dad, and some are loners, for many reasons…genetics can enter into it easily.

    He asked me why he had lived so long, and I said, “So we could begin to understand each other.” He smiled and got a bit teary. So maybe there are reasons to stay open?

    You’re amazing. : )