Family vacations were often taken without him. He took his job and providing for his family seriously. As the neighborhood pharmacist he was always on call for his customers day or night it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, this left many times when he was absent from our table, from our family times, and from my memories. Yet he always managed to be there when it mattered most. Like the Sunday morning service when I was 10 and first felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to surrender my life to Christ. He walked me down the aisle of the only church I had ever known to the sound of Just As I Am playing on the organ. I knew then that I would live my life for the Lord.
Through the years my relationship with my dad wavered. I was the first of his kids to leave the family business and get my own job. He never said it, but I know it hurt him. Then, I left our family church to join another one where I felt the Lord leading me. When I asked for his blessing, he said,
“You know I’d love nothing more than for you to stay at our church, but I want you to be happy. Yes, you have my blessing.”
I hugged him and skipped away unaware of the dagger I had most likely stabbed in his heart, nor of the similar experience I would one day face as a mom. His example helped me let go and allow my kids to live the life God has called them to live, not what I would prefer.
My dad had deep emotions that often went unnoticed, but as he aged you could see it in his eyes. Many words that had once been left unsaid were suddenly finding expression. I remember the time when something was weighing heavily on his heart that he dropped by my home unannounced to talk to me about it. I was shocked, but sympathetic. I didn’t want to pop the bubble of that moment. He ended up asking me to help him write out his thoughts. As an aside, he was always proud of my writing skills. He said I was like his Aunt Minerva who found success as a writer, when it was harder to do so. It was long before the internet gave a threshold to anyone who wanted to express their opinion whether talented or not.
As I sat at the computer he dictated what was on his mind. I was fully aware that I was being given a window into his heart. When he pulled out of my driveway, I whispered a prayer of gratefulness to God for that moment.
Years later after we had added onto our home with a screened in pool, my dad came over another time by himself. I don’t remember the reason, but I think it was simply to give me this lasting memory to replace all the times he wasn’t there for me. Standing on our back porch looking over the pool he said,
“I’m real proud of ya, hon!”
Simple words, really, but they had the power to dissolve years of distance between us.
The last time he visited my home was Thanksgiving 2003. He had just been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. I’ll never forget him getting out of the car and leaning his head on the roof fighting back the tears. The entire day he wandered through my house taking snapshots in his mind of the family moments he may or may not have noticed before. All the while I was taking photos of my own allowing the Lord rewrite my memories.
This was my dad, the pharmacist, the friend, the man with deep emotions, whom I loved more than words could express. The closer he drew to heaven, the closer he drew to us. Once again he was there for the moments that mattered most, showing us how to walk home.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Until we meet again…