I count myself as pretty Blessed among my friends and family because although my parents are in their upper 80’s, they are both still here and both in reasonably good health. There are times when they might need assistance doing certain things and when the occasion arises, I like to try to help. Having had a rocky relationship with them “back in the day” and even sometimes in the present; I still want to do what I can for them while they are here.
Sometimes I am asked why I do it and my response is simple, “They aren’t going to be here much longer. I want to know I did my best to love them well while they are here.”
Yesterday my Dad needed some help getting to the new location of the Driver’s License Bureau. It happens to be in my neighborhood, so I offered to drive him. Then we received word that one of my parent’s old dear friends had passed and that the celebration of his life would be held yesterday at the country club where our family practically lived my entire life. I knew Dad wouldn’t feel comfortable going by himself, so I offered to drop by and take him to both places.
Bear in mind I really am a creature of habit and practically a social recluse. Charlie and I have carved out a peaceful routine that works for us. We laugh at ourselves frequently for excitedly making plans to go somewhere new or to some social event and then at the very last second we look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say, “Naaaaaaah. I don’t reaaaaaaally wanna go, do you?” Nope. And then we stay home. (99.5% of the time, this is the exact scenario.)
The prospect of having to make small talk makes me recoil with intimidation, so I was sort of dreading going to the Country Club. Add to this the fact that I knew I would be seeing people who hadn’t seen me in almost forty years. I have been over weight off and on for a lot of years and whenever I think about seeing people from my past I become very insecure. (Translation: I used to have a very high level of confidence regarding my appearance! In fact, one might argue correctly that long ago my entire sense of self was wrapped up in the package of my outward appearance.)
All morning long I wrestled with the same feelings of dread that a person goes through when he/she is about to take and important test. Then I arrived to pick up my Dad at 3:00 PM.
This is a memory I won’t forget. After I had been there for a few minutes talking with my Mom, my Dad appeared all dressed to go. The man is 87 years old, yet when he stepped into the room, he was styled from head to toe looking as modern as any other person on the planet right down to his socks! He and my Mom giggled telling me that she had recently bought the pants he was wearing and hadn’t realized she was picking up, “the skinny leg” variety. It looked so good on Dad it made my heart smile. (My Dad has fought getting old his entire life. At almost 88 next month, it persists.) I was struck by how adorable he looked. It made me feel so good. He was dressed up to go out with ME, regardless of the occasion. (Sniffle. So sweet. I wish I had taken a photo, but that memory will stay with me forever more.)
Our trip to the License Bureau went off without a hitch and soon enough we were walking across the parking lot of the country club. This was a walk both of us had taken separately and collectively hundreds of thousands of times. This time, however, my Dad reached for my hand and we walked up the stairs together to pay respects to a dear friend and his family. It was a bittersweet feeling. This was a place that was a second home to us from birth until my early thirties. My Dad spent nearly every day there playing golf. (He reminded me on the trip over there that he and his buddies used to play on New Year”s Eve no matter what the weather.) I spent my youth in the pool and at the snack bar and then when my daughter was born, we were there together daily during the summers. This is the place we celebrated every special occasion; birthdays, weddings, Anniversary’s, Funerals, out of town guests, and of course, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup!
We were both unprepared for the wash of feelings that hit us at the door. The first thing I noticed was a giant portrait of my Dad’s old good friend, Pee Wee Reese. Dad and I walked over to it and then noticed they had created an entire area dedicated to him. It was fun looking at the art and then peering out the window to see the pool area that had meant so much to me. Then we walked through the archway into the bar to pay our respects the family. The son of my Dad’s friend is a person I ran in the same circles with in high school and his wife graduated with me. It was so good to see them both and to hug them and just spend a few moments together. Looking around, it didn’t take long for Dad and I to come to the unspoken realization that he wouldn’t be seeing many of his old friends. They have all passed on or are in too ill health to socialize.
Trying to take the focus off of that fact, I took his hand and suggested we sneak around the club to see what it was like now. And so we did. What we found were a few changes named for other passed on men who were his best golfing buddies. We stopped in the bar and searched the wall for the plaque with his name on it for when he was the 1980 Club Champion. When I found it, I couldn’t help but reflect that in 1980 I was a Sophomore; probably the same year I started actively socializing in high school.
How did we get here, so far along in life? Gosh, it’s gone by so fast.
We took a few more steps out to the veranda to watch the golfers coming in. I knew Dad was probably remembering all of the times he’d played that course. The screaming elephant in both of our hearts was knowing he would not be playing that course again and that this is a place now predicated by the words, “used to”. I don’t have adequate words to paint what was in our hearts at that moment. I just have gratitude that we experienced it together.
On the way out we ran into two more of my high school friends and I got to hug their necks and say hello. Then I hugged my friend, who’d just lost his father and I told him from my heart, that I love him and although the occasion absolutely sucked, I was so happy to see he and his wife. I meant that. His Dad was important to me and by proxy, that made me always think of him as “brother”. I told him that too. It came out easily.
The drive home was filled with small talk and memories of days gone by. As he was getting out of the car, my Dad took my hand, and with tears in his eyes and told me how much it meant to him that I had suggested we go and that I took the time to come pick him up and Chauffeur him to and from. He said he was glad we were present there, “together”. I was too.
Having worked together for over thirty years, my Dad and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. There was even a time when we didn’t speak to or see one another for three years. Though it was emotionally hard, I count this day as a Supreme Blessing. I cried all the way home thanking God that love honestly does transcend all.
PS- That photo up there was taken when I was just twenty years old. Dad and I were in San Diego attending a business meeting.
My Dear Lord,
Things pass so quickly here on this earth. While we are busy going about the tasks of our daily lives, please help us to remember to look up and to savor where we are in life. Far too often things happen in a flash and then we are left looking back lamenting and wishing we’d stopped before it was too late. Help us to cultivate the relationships we may be taking for granted and to communicate our feelings to those who may not realize how important they are to us.
Thank you for allowing me precious time with my parents. Help us all to make the time to go the extra mile for our precious loved ones, even when to do so, requires supreme effort and extra energy. The are always unexpected Blessings there.
Thank you for the life you have given me. Thank you for the dear friends I’ve made along the way. Thank you for helping me speak the words that have long been hidden in my heart.
May we all be better vessels of your love and light today and always.