In my very first entry in this Journal I wrote something to the effect that I have been blessed in many ways – including some that many might not consider blessings. At the time, I left it at that and alluded to a possible future entry to explain. Perhaps Father’s Day lends itself to such an occasion.
The gentleman appearing at the top of this entry is my dad. He will be 85 this year and I think you can see the life and light in his eyes from this photo taken on his birthday last year.
What isn’t evident from the picture or his demeanor was that the picture was taken at a nursing home and it was his first full day there, following hospital rehab for injuries from a fall at his home. It was his third time in the nursing facility for rehab since his stroke almost three years ago.
Dad was always an impatient man. He moved quickly and expected everyone else to keep up with him. He had the energy of 6 younger men it seemed – mowing his own lawn or shoveling his own snow – and that of two or three neighbors for good measure – golfing at least twice a week and driving anywhere and everywhere. And then his stroke took away the use of most of his left leg and hand, slurred his speech and affected his ability to swallow – and now all of the things that came so easily and quickly take painfully long periods of time to accomplish, and then imperfectly.
To watch this proud man become dependent on others for the basics in life has been painful, and to watch him grow weaker over time yet still fight to live in his own home (with assistance) has torn at my heart on so many levels and in a thousand different ways. I watch him grow weary of life, and - sometimes - I grow weary for him and with him.
But this message is about blessings – and that is what I consider my dad and every moment we have left to share. Each day, this strong, quiet man teaches me lessons about life and patience. He fights not to give in to his limitations, yet demonstrates a sense of grace in handling them. The frustration shows sometimes, but he rarely complains – and each night he says his prayers and asks more for help to others in need than anything for himself. I know there are quiet times when he wishes this burden will be taken from him, but his grip is still strong and purposeful, there is still a look of steel on his face when he needs to dig deep to do something most of us would take for granted – and there is still that light in his eyes.
Our parents continue to teach us long after we’ve grown. The lessons themselves and the method of instruction may change, but we should always be wise enough to stop and listen – for we still and will always have much to learn, and the teachers, and the blessings of what they teach, will not always be physically with us.