My father now lives with me and has for the last 2 years. Before that time, he lived in Norfolk, Va in the same house for 62 years, had been married to my mother for 53 years until she died and had worked for the same company for 46 years until he retired at 65. As one can see, consistency and constancy are the bedrocks of his character.
Even though I lived in the same house with him until I went to college, I can honestly say, I really didn't know him very well. He was quiet, laconic and very athletic. I was loud, verbose and couldn't hit a baseball if my life depended on it. We just didn't have a lot in common, or so it seemed to me. And so life went on. I moved around a great deal and contact with him was only 25 words or less during a periodic phone call.
As I mentioned before, Dad was a man of steel..physically and morally. He wasn't a church goer, but having been raised in a Masonic orphanage in Richmond, he was grounded in Christian values. It was these values that formed his solid character, a character that I have only now begun to fully discover and appreciate.
Since Dad is a diabetic, circulation problems recently cost him his left leg. It has been a struggle to adjust to this challenge, but he never ceases to amaze me. Using his prosthetic leg, he has astounded the Physical Therapist with his progress. But then again, Dad is a "jock." Even at 92. Here is a guy that shot his age (83) until by-pass surgery forced him to give up golf.
Seeing him in his present circumstance has been painful for me. But he continues to teach me, even as he did when I was too young to appreciate it. And what have I learned from him? Many things:
Never complain--Dad has yet to ever complain that he has gotten a raw deal. On the contrary, he quietly adjusts his life to his challenges and simply does what he has to do to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Appreciate each moment-- "It looks like its going to be a great day," he tells me as I help him to his potty chair.
Be patient-- Patience has never been my strong suit. It has always been one of his virtues. If he is lying on the bed wating for me to wheel him to dinner or elsewhere, he doesn't call out or fuss about the delay. "I knew you'd be in here sometime. No problem."
Love--and this is the big lesson. When you are around him, you know you are in the presence of a man who loves. We were never affectionate with each other. No hugs. Men of his generation just didn't do that. But I always knew that he was there for me..he would support me..he would encourage me. Although I would not have verbalized it then, I now can say he loved me. And so each evening as I give him his last dosage of pills for the day, I pull the covers up under his chin. "Snug me in," he says with a smile. I pat his right leg as I walk from the room. "Thanks, Big Guy," he says. "See ya tomorrow."