Dear Dad, I will never forget even if you might…
My Dad just turned 79 years old. He’s struggled for years with losing, through infirmities, his role and function as the guy who knew and could do anything. He’s afraid we’ll “forget” who and what he used to be. I wrote this letter to him for his birthday. I thought it might be relevent to some of you. I’m hoping I listen to my own message.
When I was a girl…
I was amazed and in-love with my Daddy who could DO ANYTHING! He built a dinghy that provided the most enduring fun I can remember. He supported my love of reading which opened the whole world to me. He built an electronic organ that kept me practicing music that still enriches my life. He could bar-b-cue and fix things. He could carry me on his shoulders for a horsey ride!
He dug the trench around the tent and the hole for the port-a-potty and he could get the kerosene stove to work. He taught me to love nature and be a conservationist: “always leave a place better than you found it.” He trained our puppies and mowed our lawn and brought home the bacon. Perhaps most important of all: he taught me in big ways and small that a real man shows love and respect for his wife in every circumstance. I felt loved, safe and happy.
As a young woman…
I believed he KNEW everything: My Dad had the courage to start and build his own radio station and the brains to know his wife was the best partner possible. My Dad could answer questions as reliably as Google now does for everyone else (though I now know he was also a good deducer and guesser). I wanted to be able to express opinions as articulately as my dad. My Dad could challenge the status quo by leading a community to protect it’s teenagers from their worst inclinations. He taught me radio electronics (well, he succeeded enough for my 3rd class license) and he could get a radio station working in every emergency (but couldn’t get a full week off to save his soul). With Mom they saved the county from tornadoes and big-foot monsters and economic downturns. He made me believe that education was important and that knowledge mattered more than the degree. He edited my papers better than any teacher.
Now I treasure and count on you for…
Showing me how to BE.
Showing me how to give the blessings of affirmation and encouragement to the generations that follow. When a father or grandfather or elder expresses delight and pride in what and who I already am–I experience how God sees and loves me.
Showing us that life has depth and meaning that is not based on knowing or doing what others can’t, but rather on loving and caring and forgiving to the very end.
Remembering (and reminding me) that people don’t always need someone to tell them ‘what’ or ‘how’ but rather to assure them that you believe they can try and can learn on their own.
Modeling for me, and all of us, how to accept with grace and wisdom the losses, suffering and indignities that years and sickness bring to all who are strong enough to reach old age. Showing how to embrace what you have and can-do; rather than clinging to what was.
Modeling acceptance of the kindness and assistance of others. When help is received with gratitude and dignity, then the givers of help learn to serve with humility and gentleness.
For Witnessing to the Hope that Faith can give- -that life is meaningful to the very end.
And some day; showing me that death is not the end of light, but is putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come.