Thursday, June 17, 2010

Father's Day

June 17, 2010
This has been a very hectic day – and this evening is going to be very hectic as well – so I decided to recycle a blog I wrote two years ago. It was right before Father’s Day. And, here we are, two years later – right before Father’s Day. I’m happy to say my dad’s health is good and my parents are at their cottage in Cape Cod enjoying the summer.

From June, 2008:
My parents are pretty amazing people. They're in their 80s and don't seem to know what "slowing down" means. They've trotted all over the globe, and in fact have made return treks to so many locales, we tease them and suggest that they've run out of places in the world to visit, so they must be starting over! Their one nod to Father Time is that they've begun taking cruises rather than organized tours of foreign countries since they only have to pack and unpack once.

At least once a week they deliver Meals on Wheels – sometimes to people younger than they. One time, a woman in her housecoat and slippers was sitting in her easy chair awaiting her prepared meal. When my mother came to the door to deliver it, the woman said, "Will you please bring it here, dear? I can't get up very easily. After all, I just celebrated my birthday and turned 77." To which my mom simply smiled and said, "Well, happy birthday – you look wonderful!" She then deposited the meal on the tray in front of the woman and continued on her rounds.

I won't say how old she was, but at the time Mom was several years older than this woman.

My family has been blessed to have our parents in our lives all these years and I try not to take their presence for granted. I do my best to call and visit them whenever I can because I know that one day in the not-so-distant future, I might wish I could pick up the phone to talk to them – and they won't be there. And I don't want to have any regrets just because I "meant" to call more often – or "would have" visited except that I had too much going on in my life at the time.

So, with that philosophy in mind, and despite the ever-rising gas prices, I gamely filled the tank to the tune of $52.65 the other week, hopped in my car, and drove the three hours to my parents' house. And, okay, I admit that for once I actually stuck to the speed limit in the meager attempt to conserve as much fuel as possible.

Shortly before my visit, Mom and Dad had returned from their third cruise of the year. They had a wonderful time, but both of them came back with colds. They were congested and coughing, but neither of them seemed to be particularly ill. We had a nice evening, sitting on the porch drinking wine, talking about our upcoming family vacation plans and listening to the birds perched in the 40-year-old trees in the backyard.

Early the next morning my mom shook me awake to tell me that my dad was having trouble breathing and she was taking him to the Emergency Room.

In a bit of a panic, I jumped up, threw on some clothes, and ran downstairs to head out the door. Dad, fully dressed, was standing in the kitchen putting all his daily heart medications into the little pill box he carries in his pocket. His hands were shaking, he was wheezing, and his face was absolutely grey. I was shaken by his appearance but I tried not to show my fear and asked him if I could help. He said, "Thanks, Jane, but I've got it." That's just my dad – always there, always calm and always able to handle things.

Within a few moments, we had him settled in the car and I drove the three of us to the hospital six minutes away. Dad's labored breathing sounded very loud in the silent car and I fought to stick to the speed limit. Nevertheless, I think I made it to the hospital in just under four minutes.

Dad was pretty quickly settled into a bed in the ER with an oxygen mask on his face while tests were performed to determine his condition. Diagnosed with pneumonia, he was admitted to the hospital. Because he has lived with heart disease and had suffered two heart attacks (the first one in his early 40s), has had bypass surgery, and a few years ago had a pacemaker implanted in his chest, the concern was that he could develop congestive heart failure.

While there were a couple rough days, Dad finally responded to the IV antibiotics, breathing treatments and other medication, and was discharged six days later. And then the rest of us were finally able to breathe a little easier, as well.

With Father's Day coming up on Sunday, I'd like to take a moment to pay tribute to my Dad.

He's an incredible man and has been an amazing influence on my life. He's one of the quietest people you'd ever meet, but he's kind and caring, and is – quite simply – an honorable man. His primary focus has always been taking care of his family. And he has always been there if we need him, whether it's for advice or to fix a leaky faucet. And when he does speak, we know it's because he has something important to say. One of my greatest joys is being able to make my dad laugh!

He has dealt with health issues for many years, but he quietly endures the pain and discomfort without complaint, and then gets up to begin another day. He is truly an inspiration.

And, even though Mother's Day has come and gone this year, I have to add that Mom is pretty inspirational herself. She has a lot of strength packed into her 5'2" body because she is the one, after all, who has been there getting Dad through every one of his health crises through the years. If not for her, I suspect that Dad might not be here with us today. He may have grumbled a little when he was denied that bowl of ice cream or second cookie…but he knows she's looking out for him and wants him to be healthy enough to go on that next cruise.

My parents are modest and unassuming people and this little 'tribute' would embarrass them, so I suspect I will never show it to them. They lead by example and don't talk about their accomplishments.

I hope they know how much I love and admire them. And I do. I'm very grateful to be their daughter.

To all the Fathers out there, you have more of an impact on your children's lives than you can ever know. Your children love you – even if they don't say it all the time – and they need you. Thank you for all that you do.

Happy Father's Day!

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