When I was a little girl, Dad used to play ukulele and later, guitar, and one of my favorite things was to sit next to him on the green chair and sing “Molly Malone” together.
So when my brother and I came home for a visit at the beginning of October, we made sure to play music for Dad.
With Dad in his hospital bed at the house, Jason and I paged through Dad’s old songbook and picked out some old favorites, like “Early Morning Rain” and “Blowing in the Wind.” Jason and I sang harmony, and Dad told us repeatedly how wonderful we sounded. He asked us to record it, so we did.
I listened to it after I got home, and realized only then how off-pitch many of my harmonies were. But it didn’t matter. Dad thought we sounded beautiful together.
I am a therapist, and one of the things that has struck me over the years is how much a parent’s pride—or lack of it—impacts a person for life. I am so lucky that Dad has always expressed such pride in me, as he has done for all of his kids and his grandkids. That is my undergirding. His pride, which I have internalized, gives me the confidence to take risks.
I see a lot of depression in my line of work and suffered bouts of it myself in my teens and twenties. I don’t know if I would believe it that there are people in the world who have never experienced depression—if it weren’t for the fact that my father was one of them.
Sometimes, especially when I was younger, it made it difficult, because I felt he didn’t “get” me. But as I have aged, and particularly as he has faced the health challenges of recent years, I feel so lucky to have had my father as a model of positivity. You hear about people facing life-threatening illness with gratitude and grace, but I was always suspicious of what went on behind the scenes. Because of my dad, I know that such things are truly possible, and it gives me something to reach for in my daily life.
Even after a stroke in 2011 caused him to lose his left peripheral vision in both eyes, that didn’t stop him. He still played squash—on the left side of the court; still played tennis—doubles; and rigged up a special mirror so he could ride his bike into town, since he could no longer drive. Even after the cancer struck, he always found something to be grateful for, always enjoyed a good laugh. And sometimes his heart swelled so much he had a good cry, too. Frequently, he said, “I’ve had a good life.”
Reed and Luke, Stella and Leah, and Finn and Adele, your grandpa loved you so much and was so proud of you. He used to tell me stories about each of you all the time. He will no longer be able to be here with you in his body, but he will always be with you in your heart.
A few years back, my dad told me that ever since a special nurse helped him through a bout of rheumatic fever at the impressionable age of 12, he had always wanted to marry one. It’s a good thing he did, because in these last few months Linda was the most devoted nurse he ever could have hoped for. Thank you, Linda, for taking such good care of my father.
And I want to thank all of you. I have been blown away by the sheer numbers of people who have been calling, stopping by, bringing food, doing yard work, and otherwise supporting Dad and Linda. Every day! People streaming through the doors! I can’t tell you how much that meant to them, and to me. Your presence lit up my dad’s life.
One morning when I was visiting back in May, Dad lay on his exercise mat on the floor unable to get up due to a bout of pain. The phone rang, and I picked up. It was a friend of his just calling to check in. Dad took the call, and I watched him light up… and slowly, without even realizing he was doing it, Dad got up off the floor and sat down in a chair. By the time he said goodbye to his friend, the pain was forgotten. This is the power of love. Your love sustained him, and I am grateful.