All my life, my dad has been a strong man. His career as a city fireman took him away from home for 24-hour shifts, and he worked long hours with his business as a heavy equipment operator. Our home required the normal upkeep, plus we had a barn with horses, some beef cows (sometimes), and a big yard and a summer garden. Granted, Dad always made sure that my brothers and I helped (mostly the brothers) outside, and Mom and my sister and I helped with "inside work" and summer canning. (More stories later on how much we hated it then but wish we could do it all again with Mom.) Always on his mind was that he had all of us, plus my two half-sisters, who depended on him.
Now Dad, who ran a strict household (understatement), is 90 years old. He's a good dad, like always. His time and his life was for work, but that work meant that we were cared for. Mom was always the affectionate one, the sympathetic ear when we needed it. But Dad made sure we all knew how to work, support ourselves, and live right in the real world. His caring was shown in ways that meant discipline, rules, and responsibility.
In 1996, my parents were getting ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I was planning a celebration that spring at their church, and the house next door came up for sale. Mom, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, was lonely and the 5-bedroom house was becoming more and more difficult for her to maintain. When Ray came home from a weekend of concerts, heard from me that the house next door was for sale, he immediately said, "Would your parents consider living there?"
We didn't even stop on the way from the airport, but went to Mom and Dad's big brick house to ask them! Mom immediately said an enthusiastic "YES!", and Dad's eyes teared up with relief. Within two months, we had purchased the house, Dad orchestrated the move, and Mom and Dad moved in next door.
Over the years I've been privileged to have my parents close to me. Mom passed away almost 10 years ago today. Dad and I have sat together so many times since then, and I've gotten to know my dad better than I ever would have in any other setting. The things Dad has helped me with is HUGE, and too numerous to list. We've discussed finances, religion, politics, and family, and many times we don't share the same views. But sitting with my dad is a gift.
In January of this year, Dad turned 90 years old. He's spent the winters since the '80s in Texas, and I'm still having a hard time convincing him that he has to change that tradition. You see, Dad has to use a walker now, and he's been approved for a scooter by the Veterans, to replace the one that my brother, Lee, bought him a few years back. Dad has a beautiful, shiny GMC truck, as well as a 1992 Lincoln, but he's decided to put up his keys and use the Lifestream bus to get himself to and from the senior citizen lunches each day. He still cooks for himself, most of the time, but I share when I cook something. Dad looks forward to the neighbor who brings in his newspaper and mail, and he's disappointed if the neighbor goes away for a trip and the paper has to wait until I come home from work. It's all different than when I was a kid...and now I look out for Dad.
Today Dad has a list of errands, and I'm heading to do them with him. WalMart, Lowe's, the Post Office, and a few more. I'm going to be tied up for a few hours with some Dad-time.