It is almost two years since Daddy died. (February 3, 2011) It is almost one year that Mother has been at home without being in the hospital or nursing home. (February 24, 2012). These two years have been filled with many changes and transitions for both Mother and me. There have been significant losses (husband/father; mobility; career/job) and learnings (elder care, part-time job protocols, who and how to be without a job as key identifier)
As these key dates loom ahead, I find myself thinking of Daddy a great deal. He wasn’t much of a go-er. After his travels to
Europe during WWII as a glider pilot, he was very happy
to be a “stay at home son” until he became a husband and father. As a result our family vacations, with a few
exceptions, tended to be camping trips to the . There Daddy delighted in teaching us to fish
and hunt, pitch tents and cook over campfires.
Daddy drew the plans for the house in which we grew up. While some of the work was contracted out to a construction company, there was much work that we did as a family. We learned about sheetrock, painting, pouring concrete, plumbing and how to use all sorts of power tools in his well-equipped workshop. One of my fondest memories was working with him on the first house I bought. Together we put in a bathroom in the basement and installed amazing shelving (from 12 inches to 36 inches deep) in the laundry room. It seemed to me that there was just nothing he couldn’t fix. When my brother, Kim, and I got our first car, a ’53 Chevy coupe, we worked along Daddy to install a new head gasket. Of course, he didn’t let us leave the driveway in any of our subsequent vehicles without showing him that we knew how to jack it up and change the tires.
As a result of his skills as a handy-man, there has always been an underlying expectation that we could (and should) be able to take care of those inevitable projects around the house. Not long ago while moving a new futon, the bolts holding the legs on were shirred off. I tried my best to figure out how to fix it, but finally had to call on a neighbor for assistance. As he opened up his tool box and knew exactly what to do, I was nearly overwhelmed with the sense of how much I missed Dad and the many kinds of help he had given me through the years. But I was also aware how much I appreciated the skills he helped hone so I could replace a fence post, build a raised bed garden, tile a bathroom, and keep a temperamental snow blower going.
In the last decade of his life as Mother increasingly struggled with arthritis, knee replacements and shoulder surgeries, leg and ankle breaks, Daddy took on more and more of the household tasks and her personal care. The thing that touches me most is how he could do so much without a crankiness or aggravation. He just smiled and laughed; his good humor was infectious. Lately, when I have felt burdened with some of the responsibilities for Mother’s care, I have found myself saying, “You are your father’s daughter.” I think that this mantra has helped me to take a breath and react in kinder, gentler ways.
The Roman Catholic theologian, Richard Rohr, recently wrote on his list serve that “Your image of God forms you.” If you think of God as a harsh, unbending judge, you may be formed as fearful, untrusting—perhaps even judgmental yourself. If God for you is loving, forgiving and merciful, then you may be formed to be trusting, gracious and loving, too.
Just as Daddy’s DNA formed and informs me and the life I live, I believe that my image of God is also forming and transforming me with the new life challenges I have in this season of my life.