I love my dad.
Now, that’s not an unusual sentiment to have for the man who brought me into the world (with some considerable help, even labor, from my mom), but I’ve walked a long path to get to this point. And I’m aware that not everyone can say this or should even think it. There are entirely too many absent fathers and abusive fathers and all the other possible ways human beings abuse this gift of an incredibly important relationship.
As I write this, my dad lies in a hospital bed about fifteen miles from here (I was planning to write when I visited him this morning, but I left my laptop. I leave different objects where ever I go. He regularly calls to tell me I have left my hat, coat, phone, lap top, groceries, belt, shoes, and so forth often enough that it has become an in joke between us. Today as I was walking out of the room, he said, “You got your head?” He knows I would have left it had it not been connected to my body.
Our odyssey to this present state started in earnest when I became a father in 1977. Up until this, I was frequently at odds with the him, feeling every bit of a great generational gulf. As I got older and experienced the joy and terror of having children, we grew closer. When my mom died seven years ago, we slowly became best friends. We didn’t spend time golfing or fishing or watching stock races or other manly events pictured on Father’s Day cards, but instead enjoyed putting together a series of jigsaw puzzles, exulting (and despairing) or the Nationals [ditto for the Washington professional (?) football club] as we watched them on television and spending hours traveling to assorted doctors. We watched the Silver Line being built as we drove to and from Tysons Corner for eighteen months for his implant procedures. I wrote the frist draft of two novels in doctors’ waiting rooms. And I heard joke after joke and story after story, learning things about him and my mom I never knew. The little government surplus house we lived in from 1948 until 1952 rented by the room—45 cents! He and my mother were married int he back seat of the minister’s car. Weddings were not permitted in Tennessee on Sundays, so they were driven across the Georgia line where the deed was done. The marriage lasted sixty years.
My dad is resting for bypass surgery next week to fix a nearly blocked artery in his left leg. He had a similar procedure five years ago on the right leg which became infected. It took three months to clear the infection, with the help of home health nurser, a wound vac and the expertise of the Fauquier Wound Center near Warrenton. His left leg had been hurting him for about six weeks, and he had been scheduled for the operation yesterday. Monday morning he called me wanting to go to the ER. There they decided to send him to Fair Oaks for the procedure as soon as he could tolerate it. His kidney function and swelling from limited circulation had to be treated before the surgeons could work on him. He is resting and gradually reaching a state where this work can be done.
So, that’s my short peek into my relationship with father, my teacher, my hero, my friend and my biggest cheerleader. I hope you have a father or a father figure like him in your life, or, if your father has gone on, I pray you have wonderful and clear memories of your time together. And I hope you love your dad as much as I love mine.