A few evenings ago you told me that you are too weak and tired to go on, and you need me to be strong for you. You, the strong one, my man of steel, need me to help you during the hardest time of your life. You asked me to stay close to home from here on out, because you feel safer knowing I am close. Me, the weak one, your little girl, makes you feel safer. How can that be? I thought you were invincible.
The surgeries, the needles, the drain tube, and the awful diagnosis scared me, but not you. You stayed strong. You said comforting things to me, and told me you were not afraid. And you were not.
Sixteen months ago, the doctors said you had weeks to live. I said, “You don’t know my dad. He is not like most other guys.”
But things are getting harder physically now. You are tired. It turns out that you, my superhero, can get tired, too tired to carry on.
You have taught me so many things over the years, and you are still teaching me. These last few months you have been teaching me how to be strong during the toughest of times. You have so much wisdom, and so much faith. You have been such a great example.
My mind is whirling. I am playing all of my favorite times with you over and over again in my head.
Remember when you taught me to drive? I was really struggling with the manual transmission. The drivers’ ed teacher tried to teach me about the friction point and how to apply the gas while letting up on the clutch. I couldn’t get it right. But you taught me in one evening in your old Nissan pick up truck. I wrecked that truck once. You never even frowned at me. You were just glad I wasn’t hurt.
I was your passenger the last time you were behind a steering wheel. Your reflexes had slowed, but you did not scare me. I had more confidence in you than you did yourself. But, when you were sure you no longer wanted to drive, it only meant that I got to spend even more time with you, driving you everywhere you needed to go. You planned all your outings around lunchtime so you could always treat me to lunch.
Remember teaching me to shoot? You set up targets in the garage so I could practice with a pellet gun, and then you took me hunting. When I repeatedly begged you to let me shoot your shotgun, you stood right behind me to absorb the recoil that I was so sure I could handle on my own. That kick was hard, and would have knocked me down. You were ready with your body braced right behind me and you caught me. You always let me try to be independent, and then stepped in to catch me when I had overestimated my ability.
I wish you could be there forever, standing right behind me, ready to absorb the shock for me. The shock I will feel soon will be far worse than a physical one.
Remember the times you took me coon hunting with your dad? I know you both had to walk so much slower with me along. Maybe you knew you were helping me to make memories that would last a lifetime. And maybe you knew that someday you would be the one asking me to walk so much slower so you could keep up with me.
The past few days your steps are shaky and unsure. You could not make it from the bedroom to the living room this week, and you sat down in the walker so I could move you. I made a very awkward attempt at pushing you, then walking backward and pulling you. We both chuckled at my attempts. What if that is the last time I hear you laugh? Oh how you have made me laugh over the years.
Do you remember surprising me with my first car? You sent me to the garage, and you were close behind because you wanted to see the look on my face when I discovered that car in the garage. But I still remember the look on your face. You were as excited as I was! I think that very used orange Ford Pinto was as beautiful to you and I as a shiny new sports car would have been to most folks.
Once I was four hundred miles from home and that old Pinto was making a strange noise. You spoke on the phone to a mechanic who could not find the problem. You told me to start for home, and you stayed near the phone until I walked in the door. I knew that if I had broken down anywhere along the way, you would have done whatever it took to rescue me. There have been so many times in my life I have called you to come and rescue me.
Recently, I have had to rescue you on occasion. I would gladly keep on rescuing you if only you could stay with me a little while longer.
Do you remember when I called home from college to tell you that I had met the man I was going to marry? You said, “Does he know that?” I answered, “not yet” and I described him to you. I could almost hear you smiling on the phone as I told you about his love for God, his ability to defend the truth, and his hard work ethic. I was sure he was the one for me because he is so much like you.
Remember all the games of Canasta? Remember all the pony rides and fishing trips? Remember teaching me to ride a bike, catch a baseball, hammer a nail, start a fire and saddle a horse? I thought I’d never learn to tie that cinch knot, but you just kept showing me day after day until I had it. Every time I tie a cinch knot I think of you and how patient you were.
Thank you for all the times you pushed me on a swing. Thank you for all the times you baited my hook, and gave up fishing with your own pole to help me with mine. Thank you for letting me come to work with you sometimes so I could see what you did. Thank you for making sure I never missed a church service. Thank you for insisting I go to college, and for all the overtime you worked to pay for my education. Thank you for helping my husband to wire, plumb, trim and paint the house we built. Thank you for loving my kids and giving them such great memories to hold onto.
Thank you for teaching me how to be strong during the toughest of times.
Note: Sixteen months ago, my Dad was supposed to be breathing his last. He lived much longer than the doctors anticipated. I have valued the extra time so much. This is the post I wrote sitting in his hospital room all those months ago: Take Another Breath Daddy