Quietly, I wait and watch as the nurses prep him for the outpatient care visit. We are in a private room sectioned off from a medical lounge of recliner chairs. This room smells clinical but feels sacred. My father is connected to monitors, intravenous drips and pressure cuffs and I am attached to the mystery of how one arrives at this cul-de-sac of life. The nurse said she needed to observe him closely for the first 15 mins then would come in to check on him periodically. Dad – was gracious (as always) and cute in his colorfully decorated, Korean War veteran hat. He looked the part of a soldier – a fighter – a trooper – a protector and all things that make a father victorious in the eyes of his daughter. My Dad – a father to many including my son, Dylan, has many titles that include a clergyman, motivator, coach, mentor and community leader and he is now looking to us, his children, to protect & serve the honor of his legacy by caring for he and my mother’s health & well-being as both of their bodies together reveal the “perfect storm” – unleashing harsh calamities followed by sunshine.
He sleeps through most of the 6-hr process…I watch as he sleeps – every now & then he wakes for juice or something yummy to snack on. I understand that it’s not promised to us all to grow old or to be loved through the process. We are not promised to be born into love or cared for during our growing pains. Wherever we find ourselves, there we must begin. This is when I know that life is calling me – to embrace what matters – to be more compassionate and to love stronger. So, I sit. I observe his breath. I wait for his reassuring smile and I am reminded of all that he gave me and all he continues to give with each glance or when he holds my one hand with his two hands. Simple but powerful exchanges of what we are to each other and who he is to my family. He is the only father my son has known – not just a grandfather but Dylan’s “Poppa”, playmate, confidant and great supporter to all of our hits and misses.
There are many stories my Dad has not shared that are hidden in his eyes. I can tell when he is traveling in his thoughts to distant places. This what I call the “reflective stare” that seems to creep into our days and shave the minutes off the hours of our time together. The eye gates separate us – yet, pulls me in closer with curiosity to know more about the man, his experiences and what he may have endured before he became my Dad. What he is missing most these days…he tells me it’s “driving” – going places – his independence but importantly taking care of us – his family. Growing up, I don’t ever recall a time when my mother was driving and he was on the passenger side in the car. Now, he rides on the ‘other’ side but not without a point of view.
The medical visit ends and we make our walk out to the car to make our way back home through the winding canyons of Southern California. He softly instructs me that we should not go the same way we came by suggesting that our new way will offer less curves and traffic obstructions. I agree. This is one lesson he has always taught me – be present but reflect and be willing to make adjustments along the way. Not easy but necessary if you want to go places in life. Inspired by this thought, I made an adjustment in my commute home – a new route and it shaved minutes off the hours on the road – giving me my time back. Now, with the extra time afforded to me – I sit, relax and reflect about the day’s events and the possibilities of tomorrow. Next, I think about what I will prepare or pick-up for dinner. God Bless my Dad & all fathers who gently guide their children and/or others – this Father’s Day and forever more.