Sunday, July 8, 2012

"How's Your Dad Doing?"

Seems like I've been asked this question a hundred times since Mom passed away. It's a perfectly natural question. Dad is 87, in declining health, and alone for the first time in his life. We are very concerned about him and how he will adjust to life without a wife who did practically everything for him. However, so far, the short answer to the question is.."He's doing amazingly well!"

Last night Pam, Kaitlin and I took dinner over to him. We walked in the door around 5 o'clock. Dad was on the phone with someone, sitting in his favorite chair, a stack of yellow pads containing the hand-written life story he's been writing for fifteen years piled high all around. Dad smiled at us, eyes alive and bright. Tonight he was in the mood to talk. While Pam was preparing dinner Dad began to hold forth on a variety of subjects, telling stories I have heard at least 15 times. The early stages of Parkinson's has caused him to lose his words at times, and tonight he lost them more than usual, but it failed to stop him from talking. He would just stop mid-sentence, apologize for losing his train of thought, then quickly go on to the next topic.

When dinner was ready, Dad displayed his usual robust appetite. He joyfully devoured everything put before him. At one point Pam asked him that since she will be preparing quite a few meals for him in the future, was there anything he didn't like. Dad thought for a long time then said..."Not very fond of pasta salad..especially when it's cold" That's it...cold pasta salad is the only food on the planet that my 87 year old Dad doesn't care for!

I mentioned earlier how Dad tells stories over and over again and I have heard them all a million times. It's true. But since Mom passed, it doesn't seem to matter. I just like hearing him tell a story, any story. Parents aren't here forever, I've learned. Now, suddenly, I'm much more eager to listen.
And, sometimes just listening pays off. I learned some new details concerning an epic story from my Father's high school days. We had all heard the incredible tail about the day that Dad was asked to come out of the stands at a Buckingham baseball game and take the field to prevent a forfeit since Buckingham only had 8 players. Dad had been on the team before the war but had been in the Pacific for three years, and now was finishing up his high school studies as a veteran. This particular day he had decided to go see his old team play. So, there he sat in a suit and tie and wing-tipped dress shoes when the manager spotted him in the stands. Since Dad was, in fact, an active student of Buckingham High School, and since he had played for the team a few years ago, the manager for Appomattox agreed to let Dad play...a decision that would go down in Buckingham Central High School sports history. The part of the story I knew and that I had heard a million times was how in Dad's first at bat, with the bases loaded and on a 3-2 count, Dad had swung his left handed bat at a low inside fast ball and hit it over the right field wall, over the Agriculture building and into the parking lot where it had hit a school bus! What I didn't know until last night was that on his third at bat, he had hit another blast, this one over the center field fence with two men on base! Dad had gone 2 for 3 with two home runs and seven RBI's in a game that Buckingham won by 8 runs...all the while in wing-tipped dress shoes!

It's only been a little over a week, and Dad has many issues that need to be dealt with, but so far he has shown an amazing amount of poise, grace and dignity. He has surprised us with his ability to manage things on his own, we have marvelled at his toughness, and the sharpness of his mind. Above all, we have noticed the never failing sweetness and gentleness that Dad has demonstrated throughout it all. My Father has put on a clinic for all of us in how to handle loss like a Christian should, with bright hope and steadfast courage. Today is Sunday..and he wants to go to church. I will pick him up and drive him, then Pam and I will sit with him on his favorite pew. Mom will have an even better seat.