My apologies to Lewis Grizzard, a Southern humorist that used to make my dad laugh. That was back when people read books. I’ve been thinking a lot about the past these days in between calls with the hospice nurse and my family. I’ve come to a conclusion I wish I would have reached a long time ago…I had a great childhood. Idyllic, really. Full of shrimp boils, spontaneous vacations, family reunions, weekends at the lake and parents that provided me with confidence and values that I cherish.
We got the news that my father was terminal in the early Winter of 2009. He began treatment and there were times we thought he wouldn’t make it through the night, but he hung on. It was just a few weeks ago that we got news that the cancer is back and, as we all know, when it comes back it is meaner than it was the first time.
During all of this, I’ve remembered that my father has given me great gifts in my life. He has taught me to stand up for what I believe in…and he even laughed at my raucus posts on this blog, he passed his sense of humor along to me and taught me to enjoy life and to be honest and have integrity.
In the week before my last trip home to see him I was prone to wildly inappropriate emotional outbursts. That poor lady at Torchy’s will never have any idea why I started crying when I ordered that delicious chicken taco.
I have been talking a lot about my dad with my friends and as they share stories about their relationship with their own father, I’ve realized that in a lot of cases I’m very lucky. My father and I have had our difficult past, but the majority of our relationship has been fulfilling and my dad and I have grown closer over the years as the relationship changed from him giving me advice to me advising him.
There have been times when we’ve talked every day. We’ve shared laughs and discussed business and now as he faces the end of his life we’ve had the most meaningful of those conversations. We have started wrapping up those things that sometimes go unsaid. My dad has always said “I love you” and always been the first to hug me, he’s always told me how proud he was of me and when I came out to him he said all the right things. As I’ve finally settled into my life he has gotten to know me as a successful businessman and he’s met my boyfriend with whom I share a life and he has embraced him as a son.
Our conversations are shorter now, there’s not much left for us to say. We both know what’s coming and we don’t feel the need to deny it.
I have started to say things out loud that have never passed my lips before. Things like, “I have nothing to prove.” That’s a hard one to say because as a child raised on a dirt road in Alabama realizing he was very different from everyone else…I had a lot to prove. But, as I see my father in the twilight of his life I think back on the man I have become and that I am fortunate to have had this time with my father. I have had time to mess up my life and come out the other side. And, my father has lived to see me make those mistakes and recover.
I’ve received many gifts in my life. Perhaps the one I cherish most is knowing who I am and how I got here.
Thanks, Dad, for helping me realize how truly rich I am.