It’s been about three months since I’ve seen my dad. My brother gave me a heads up last week that he thought dad was slowing down. Sleeping more, eating less, not sick, just wearing out. Since I was going up to northern VA, i took time one morning to drive about 2 hours to see him.
My brother was right. Dad was different. There but not really there. I could only keep him awake for about five minutes at a time. I showed him pictures of the great-grandkids, read with him, drew a picture on his white board, but he quickly dozed off each time. So my visit became more of me just being there. Ironically, that’s all dad could do, too. Just be there.
I thought a lot about that on my way home. Is just “being there” a good thing or a bad thing? We spend a lot of time telling people in the church and community, “Don’t just sit there; do something!” Yet there are times when simply being present is not just meaningful, but is everything.
I’ve heard some describe this as “ministry of presence.” Maybe there’s not much you can do. There aren’t any profound words to speak. There’s nothing you can bring. But you can be there.
You can be there when your child looks up in the stands or out into the crowd. You can be there when someone comes home. Or when it’s time for them to leave. You can be there when they open their eyes. Or when they close them (maybe for the last time).
You can be there because it’s not good to be alone (you or them).
Dad and I – August 7, 2017
Having spent more time with Dad these past few years has given me time to talk about the past with him, look at pictures of family, and remember the things my he taught me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve answered the question, “How did you learn to do that?” with “My Dad taught me.”
Dad taught me
- How to throw, catch and hit a baseball.
- How to keep score at a baseball game. (We went to a game about once a year at Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia.)
- How to drive.
- How to drive a car with manual transmission. (My first few cars had a stick.)
- How to tune up a car (When cars had distributors, points and carburetors.)
- How to do a brake job. (Again, when cars were a bit simpler to maintain yourself.)
- How to plant, weed and harvest a garden.
- How to play pinochle. And double-deck pinochle.
- How to sing and harmonize. (My mom would play piano and we would sing in harmony together. We sang a lot of parts in church, too.)
- How to hang dry wall and mud it.
- How to prep and paint walls and woodwork.
- How to wire basic electrical circuits. (Dad was an electrical engineer by trade.)
- How to solder.
- How to make Hamburger Helper. (When we got older and my mom went back to work as a nurse, she would work weekend shifts when my dad was home. We had Hamburger Helper for supper about 90% of the time on Saturdays and Sundays.)
- How to be there for all your kids’ events. (I can’t remember a concert or other event he didn’t attend.)
- How to build a fort. (When I was about 9, he bought a whole pile of scrap wood and let me and my friends build a “fort” at the bottom of the back yard.)
- How to eat Wheaties. (For most of my childhood, dad ate a bowl of Wheaties with milk for breakfast before he left for work.)
- How to eat sardines. (He always spread them on white bread.)
- Hot to tie a tie.
- How to be faithful (to God, to wife and to family.)
That’s a pretty decent start. I’ll be back to add more from time to time.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
As the calendar fills up with fall activity, our church tries very hard to communicate and publicize worship, events, meetings, classes and community events. Despite our best efforts, though, there are some we just can’t seem to connect with. They do not notice a poster on the wall, read an item in the weekly newsletter, hear an announcement, check their email or open an invitation. It is as if their peripheral vision is impaired, and they are only attentive to that which they are personally involved in or working on.
It happens everywhere. Shoppers bump into me or block the aisles as they scan the shelves, unaware of the presence of the people around them. Drivers are seem oblivious to the cars around them in traffic as they pull out right in front of me or cut me off as if I were invisible. Too many are unfamiliar with current events, are disengaged from pop culture, and completely miss the hurricane warning.
A few years ago, my dad began to require more and more care, which came primarily from my brother. When I began to visit more often, to spend time and to help with care, my brother explained that the size of my dad’s world had shrunk. Continue reading
At the breakfast table this morning, Dad held out the pinky and middle finger of his right hand, holding the ring finger in with his thumb, looked at me and said, “When you order two finger of something, do it like this.”
Good advice, Dad. But where did that come from? I’ve never seen you drink more than a glass of wine. Now you’re sharing some drinking hacks with me. I’m going to remember that one.
It’s been than kind of a morning. The night nurse told us he didn’t sleep at all last night. Sitting at the kitchen table, he suddenly began talking about his graduation from high school (1942) and then his job at the mill (loading up carpet for shipping) until Uncle Sam summoned him for service in the Army Air Corps (1943-44). He then marveled at the good education he got at Villanova after his return, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
“Yeah, I’ve come a long way since Smedley Park.” Smedley Park, now a very nice recreation are in Delaware County, PA, was the boyhood home of my dad and his family. Back then, it was where he and his brother Tommy hunted rabbit. Dad then mentioned how they got water to the house. They pumped water all the way up the hill from the spring on the other side of the railroad tracks. From there, gravity took over and carried water down to the house.
I always learn something new from and about Dad whenever I come up to visit and help take care of him. Definitely worth the airfare.