Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Dad and Thomas Jefferson

The other night, I read the final two chapters of Jon Meacham’s “Art of Power”, his masterful biography of Thomas Jefferson. The great old man was dying. In painstaking detail, Meacham described the physical struggles and bouts of melancholy that plagued him in his last days. But to the end, Jefferson’s mind still had moments of clarity, and in those moments his thoughts were of the great events of the revolution, and his obsession with the well being of his family.

After the last page was read, I sat in silence for awhile, as I often do in such moments, trying to take it all in, trying to process so monumental a life, so magnificently lived. Jefferson was a great man with admittedly great flaws, but remains one of the few men from history with whom I would love to have dinner.

As I sat there staring off into the distance thinking of Monticello, my cell phone began to vibrate on the reading table beside me. It was an e-mail from my sister. My Dad had fallen now for the third time in one day. Something was wrong. Suddenly, his legs had become weak and his gate unreliable. We would take him to the doctor and discover a badly swollen leg and foot. He would be admitted to the hospital for treatment of the infection.

So for the next several days we will all visit him there. We will monitor his progress, and sit with him when we can. He will make it as easy as possible on us by being cheerful. He will be grateful for every visit. He will make conversation even though he would rather sleep. He will eat whatever awful food is put in front of him. He will inform me of the latest news of the world as I marvel at how he manages to be so peaceful, while his body continues to betray him.

While Thomas Jefferson was the great man of history, my Dad has always been, and still remains the great man of my life.