17 Jan 2018
Watching Beverly walk over to my dad, put her arms around him, and look over to me saying, “Isn’t he so cute?” brought a huge smile to my face. So this is what love looks like later in life. Pretty much the same as it might look earlier. For my dad, though, this has been a true rebirth: finding love and being in good health as he comes close to the 92 year mark. At 82, Beverly is his hot tomato. What a thrill to see them together. Real love, joy and most important – the caring and kindness.
But to understand the picture, you need to know the back story. After my mom passed away, over 25 years ago, my dad entered almost immediately into a relationship. He’d never really been alone before and whatever survivor instincts kicked in, well, they just took over. He’d lost his own mom to breast cancer when he was just 5. His older, adored brother was killed in the second world war (I have the purple heart for him.). And then, much later, my mom passed, unexpectedly and too early. In any event, the relationship he dove into was not a healthy one. I will spare you the details but it was not without cause that, for years – actually two decades, I encouraged him to re-evaluate. Always offering that he could stay with me while he figured things out.
“Will she be there for you when you need her?,” I asked him. Not once, but 50 times, perhaps 100 times I asked, over the 20 plus years. With some truth and of course a dose of denial, he would say, “I don’t know.” Then two years ago, he called. “Can you come, I need you.” I flew cross country as soon as I could book a flight. He’d been hospitalized for a minor injury that escalated into a serious infection. On leaving the hospital, he decided to return directly home instead of spending a couple of weeks in a rehab center. The presumption being that his partner of over 20 years would take care of him, be there for him. It would only be a few weeks, after all.
I arrived at his home about the same time the visiting nurse showed up to check on him. We were introduced and she asked me to help her get some supplies from her car. Outside in the driveway, she started to cry. Why? Because the prior day, he needed to get to the doctor and was unable to drive himself. He called her to ask if she could help. She asked him why his partner couldn’t help. “She has a golf game,” my dad told her.
So that’s what we were faced with. Survivor instinct kicking back in, my dad asked me if I could help him leave that situation. It was not easy. And it was messy. For a long time after, I harbored guilt over whether I had done the right thing. Leaving an unhealthy situation at the age of 88 but what now?
So as I stood there – just a few days ago – watching him with Beverly, all I can think is: what a wonderful gift. For him, of course. But for me as well. And before I left for the airport, he looked at me and said, “Thank you for your help back then. It was the right thing to do and I couldn’t have done it without you.” Thanks dad.