Does everyone think their Dad is amazing? A hero? The smartest man on earth?
Well – I’m not naive to think that everyone is blessed to have the type of father that the sun rises and sets in his children’s eyes – but I am fortunate to know that I have that man in my life.
My Dad is nearly 82 years old.
What comes to mind when I say 82? I can tell you until I had an 82 year old dad, I thought of words like feeble, crooked, declining, needy. But my Dad is none of these. And granted, I don’t think my Dad is your normal 82 year old. Scratch that – I KNOW my Dad is not your normal 82 year old.
They say I’m in the sandwich generation, one who is taking care of both sides of my life – my kids and my parents. I did have the humbling opportunity to help care for my mom, but as of right now – there is no sandwich happening with me and my Dad other than sharing one for lunch.
I get the pleasure of living 1.23 miles from my Dad. He still lives in the beautiful home I grew up in. It’s just him there now as my Mom passed away two years ago. Granted it’s probably way too much of a house for him to be in alone. But, as I said before he is not your normal 82 year old. The acre plus of mowed grass and meticulously tended gardens of plants and species of all kinds is his fitness center, his sanctuary. He mows what I affectionately call the “back forty” with a 42 inch deck walk behind mower. Even when it’s nearly 100 degrees in the shade. No, he does not even own a riding mower anymore. “It’s my exercise,” he says.
He is a man of stedfast faith. He goes to daily Mass and does Eucharistic Adoration at 2 am once a month. His faith lies not just in sitting in a pew – but through his actions as well. He is more giving than one can hardly comprehend. He would be angry if I told you the lengths of his generosity – so I won’t. But, I will explain the roots of his altruism. His Father was an OBGYN who delivered half the town that they lived in. Everyone knew him. He often accepted trade for his services and he knew who was in need in the community. At my Grandfather’s funeral my Dad told a story about his Father that I had never heard (which was unusual because we are a family of story tellers and I thought I had heard them all.) He told of the time on Christmas, I believe (forgive me if I mess up the details – I am not a detail person) when my Grandfather asked my Dad to get in the car. They went delivering Christmas goodies to families in the community who my Grandpa knew would be going without during the holiday. He told my Dad to go to the front door, deliver the goods, ring the doorbell and run. Make sure that no one saw him. Grandpa knew that doing good deeds are best when they are anonymous, and my Dad definitely carries that same spirit.
He recently said at one of our Sunday dinners – (we have dinner nearly every Sunday together to catch upon the week, eat good food, drink good wine and just be love for each other) – that he wished he had the faith he had when he was young. Stating that he never questioned his faith when he was little – it just was. This comment from my rock-of-faith Father sitting in my sunroom, wishing he had more faith nearly sent me into shock. If our nation had just one ounce of the faith that he has in his little finger, we wouldn’t be as hateful and divided as we currently find ourselves. But that topic is another blog for another day.
Oh, and he’s pretty much an encyclopedia. He is a Pathologist by trade and he says he chose this field of medicine because when he was in medical school, anytime he was looking for an answer they sent him to a Pathologist. He wanted to be the one with the answers. And he succeeded. He has helped diagnose people even into his retirement. He will strike up conversations with acquaintances and people in waiting rooms about their ailments and suggest they have their doctor check into XYZ and low-and-behold… he is right. When we were in school and working on homework, we would ask him a question and he would always say, “Look it up.” He instilled (or tried to instill) a thirst for knowledge, for seeking the answer not just knowing the fact. Today he still sets the example for lifelong learning. He does crossword puzzles daily (hard ones) and competes in his kitchen with the Alex Trebek on Jeopardy to continue his mental gymnastics. He takes courses he purchases from The Teaching Company and is a highly proficient operator of the Internet where he peruses his daily news-serve emails and the world wide wide to keep up-to-date on current affairs. He even recently got his first smartphone – this was a day I thought I might never live to see.
And feeble and declining are definitely not the words I would use to describe his health. He has always been someone who takes care of himself. He walked to and from work for over 30 years and has always loved good, healthy foods and cooking. But since my Mom passed, he has had more time to devote to his own care and wellbeing. Not only does he partake in his yard/fitness routine he also goes to the YMCA to workout on a regular basis. And for many different reasons that I don’t have enough space or your time to explain, he has returned to a his pre-wedding weight. Let’s just say that his research has led him to a regimen of Tabasco and ascorbic acid that has yielded amazing results.
So I may be stereotyped as the cream filling in a sandwich of caregiving but there is no caregiving happening between my Dad and I, other than that of mutual love, respect and learning from each other. (Yes, I think I have finally reached the point where he might learn something from me too). I know it won’t last forever, but I love being sandwiched with my Dad.
He crushes the stereotype of any 82 year old mental picture I ever had. So bring on the sandwich – but please make mine a lettuce wrap…