We’re planning to move my dad into Hospice Care tonight, Thursday, March 30. I don’t expect him to last much longer. He hasn’t been able to swallow food or liquids in a week, can’t open his eyes, can barely communicate, and wrestles with breathing. He is 88 years old. It’s time to let him go home.
About a six days ago he fell. I found him flat in his back in his kitchen. “Are you OK, Dad?” “I decided to take a nap.”
About three weeks ago he had a stroke that slowed his gait even more than it was, affected his ability to balance on his bicycle, and rendered his once-dependable legs weak and unstable. He asked me to get him a walker, which I initially resisted because I wasn’t ready to see him with one. For some reason I can’t defend or explain I was more concerned with my own feelings of physical vulnerability than his personal safety.
About three months ago I signed up both Dad and myself for the church men’s ski trip. It was his idea. He said, “The age limit is 18-90 so I have two years left.” “Are you sure you can do this?” “We’ll find out.”
About seven months ago Dad and I rode our bikes for eight laps around Manor Park, the gated retirement village where he’s lived since 2011, in honor of his 88th birthday. I tried to talk him I it riding 8.8 miles. “No way.”
About three years ago my Mom passed away after a long slide into Alzheimer’s. I drove Dad home after the funeral with a car full of flowers he wanted to give to the caregivers in the Alzheimer’s Unit where Mom had been a patient. “It was a good day, Dad.” “Yes, it was.”
About eight years ago I took Dad 2/3 of the way up Guadalupe Peak. It was a fun father-son day, and I was proud of him for hiking so far at 80 years old, and for knowing when to turn back and hike down. “Hey Dad, this is the first time I’ve hiked when I was the youngest guy in the group.”
About thirty-three years ago my Dad gave me a ride home after my first attempt to run a marathon. I ran about 18 miles before dropping out. He told me he was proud of me. I was 27 and needed to hear that as much as when I was ten. The truth is, I have never known a moment of life without being certain my Dad was proud of me. It is one of God’s greatest gifts.
About thirty-eight years ago I told my Dad that Cyndi and I wanted to get married. “We knew that already. What else is new.”
About Forty-nine years ago my Dad encouraged me to join the beginner band program at Kermit Junior High School. I am still a musician today because of him. He served as a church worship leader for years, and showed me that music was what grown men did.
About fifty years ago I was with Dad when we both got busted putting an “It’s A Boy” sign in a friend’s yard after his wife had their first son. I was embarrassed that we were caught in the act. Dad wasn’t. “If it had stayed a secret it would’ve been a good prank, but he now has a better story to tell his friends … Do you know what I caught Deane Simpson doing?”
About sixty years ago my Dad enrolled me in the Cradle Roll at our church in Big Spring, Texas. I was only a couple days old and already a Sunday School member. From my Dad I learned what a long and consistent, quiet and unassuming, happy and joking life with God looked like. I’ve been trying to live up to that ever since.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32