Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgiving With Dad

Like many families, ours has a policy of alternating holidays. Some years we celebrate Thanksgiving with Pam’s side of the family and Christmas with mine. Then, the next year it flips. This year Thanksgiving will be a Dunnevant affair. Patrick will be home; Jon will be here, all five of us together, which in and of itself, makes for a special day. But in addition to my five, there will be twenty others, and this year we will all be gathering at the smallest house in the clan.

Dad doesn’t travel well anymore. His safety and comfort dictate that Thanksgiving will have to be at his place. To accommodate twenty five people for a sit down dinner will require a herculean effort and a space utilization plan which will be the envy of NASA. There are only three usable rooms, and all three are filled with bulky furniture, ill-designed for hosting twenty five of anything, much less people. There is a porch, and a large yard, and if the weather is nice, I plan on spending a lot of time outside. If it’s pouring down rain, well…we will discover what Noah must have felt like. But, you have to understand, my Dad is worth it.

Lately, it’s been a struggle for him. Next month he will turn 89. He is increasingly unsteady, falls a lot, and has difficulty with almost every activity of daily living you can think of. On Thursday nights and some Sundays, I’ve been helping him with his shower. Each week he struggles along without complaint, ever gracious, ever thankful for every single thing we do for him.

Sometimes it’s hard to watch. Sometimes anger stirs inside of me when I see how hard his life has become. The anger always surprises me. My Dad has lived an amazing life full of great accomplishment. In the twilight of his life he is surrounded by a loving family, and a world full of friends and admirers. His great faith and gentle spirit are the stuff of legend to those who know him. And yet, when I watch him struggle with his failing body, when I watch the tedious effort it requires for him to do even the most simple task, I fight against the anger.

So, this year for Thanksgiving, twenty-five of us with cram ourselves into his tiny house because we are thankful for him. He will eat everything on his plate. His grandchildren and great grandchildren will hug him, and he will smile and laugh at the little ones. We will miss Mom, but none of us will miss her as much as Dad will. Still, there will be no complaining, no whining from my father, and it will be this amazing strength, this resignation, this acceptance of life as it is rather than how he wishes it to be, that will force me to let go of my anger.

I hope one day to become half the man that my father is.