Father’s Day: Picking the Moments That Define Your Life

My dad will be eighty-four tomorrow, on Father’s Day.  I assume other people go through the same thing the hubby and I do with their fathers when they reach a certain age.  It’s hard to get them anything they want.  Or need.  As my father has grown older, especially since my mother died, it seems to us that what he appreciates most is time.  So that’s what we decided to give him.

My sister and I have been doing this for a couple of years, actually.  Her situation is a bit different than mine since she still has kids at home, but she makes time to come to Toledo and take care of flowers for my dad.  He wants them because he had them when my mother was alive, but he doesn’t want to weed them.  She planted perennials in some of the beds. I planted alyssum in the terrace.  The daughter helped me weed over Memorial Day.  Last weekend, my sister and her kids did the weeding.

For Father’s Day and his birthday, though, the hubby and I gave Dad a different kind of help.  He’s been talking for a while about cleaning out the house.  Last year, we helped him paint his garage, but he wasn’t ready for the cleaning.  This year, we offered.  The second time, he set a date.  That scares me a little bit, that he wants to set his house in order.  My dad is a Christian.  I know where he is going when he dies.  Just as it was with my mother, though, I am unwilling to get to the time when I have to let him go.

Anyway.  Dad rented a dumpster, which told the hubby and me that he was ready for some serious cleaning.  We got there yesterday,  just as the dumpster was set.  Then we headed to the basement.  Things have been stockpiled there for years.  I am thinking, since my sister is watching the same thing with her in-laws, that this is a normal state of affairs when you are in your eighties.  Dad’s goal was to see the floor again.  The hubby’s and mine was to get rid of as much as that dumpster would hold.  We just didn’t know how Dad would react.  In the past, he has been, ummmm….resistant.

This time was different, though.  He was ready.  Dad used to be a Latin teacher, but he bit the bullet and parted with old Latin books and teacher’s manuals.  The hubby sat him on an old chair and gave him box after box to sort.  A lot of those boxes were filled with things that he stowed in the basement because he didn’t know what else to do with them.  My mom was sick for several years, and he misses her…timely reminders.  He had sweet memories as he found some hidden treasures, though.  Here are just a few of them:

–There was a graduation certificate for kindergarten with dad’s name on it.  The date was 1997.  Puzzled, the hubby and I questioned him.  Dad taught at a Christian school that year, the year after my mother died.  He joked to one of the teachers there that he wasn’t sure he was ready for the job.  See, Dad never went to kindergarten, and that year the book  All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten was popular.  So, as a joke of her own, the kindergarten teacher gave him a graduation certificate.  “There,” she told him.  “Now you’re ready.”

–Dad found a book about football that he got for his birthday when he was ten.  It warmed my heart to see how his eyes lit up and he told us how much he enjoyed it.  Although I didn’t know it until after my mom died, my dad played football in college.  Unwilling to part with it, he has decided to give it to my sister’s oldest, who is a pretty good football player himself.

–Then there was my grandmother’s geography book.  He smiled a lot at that one, too, particular her signature.  There were a lot of things he didn’t keep, but that book went back on the shelf.

–Dad’s students once decorated his room with a beach scene.  They took a picture of him against that background–in his plaid shorts-reclining on a chaise and sipping a Coke.

–Interesting, too, were the spears that we found.  A Wycliffe Bible translator who had worked in Malaysia, gave them to my parents.  They are thin spears, used for fishing, and they, too, were something that Dad chose to keep.  They were really, really sharp!

–There was also a letter from my older sister, who went to be with the Lord three years ago.  I didn’t see all of it but, with tears in his eyes, he showed me the end, where she told him she was glad he was her dad.

As of five o’clock today, we filled that dumpster, and we didn’t get rid of everything that needed thrown away.  I think my dad is relieved.  Mostly, the things we came on were just things needed to go, but it was precious to the hubby and me to watch Dad reminisce.  My dad is of the generation of men who are uncomfortable with hugs.   He doesn’t show sentimentality very often.  My sister and I lament to one another that he signs his e-mails this way: PAX DOMINI VOBISCUM,    PATER TUUS.  If you didn’t take Latin, you might not know what that means.  It means may the Lord be with you–your father.   And that’s fine.   Just once, though, we joke, couldn’t he sign “Love, Dad?”

My sister said, in reference to her mother-in-law, that the things she has gathered are her life.  That’s why they are gathered and why they are hard to throw away.  Watching my dad go through his things, seeing the look on his face as the memories played over it, I began to think that he’s not getting rid of things to “set his affairs in order,” so to speak.  He’s going through things and deciding what matters.  Just like he matters to us.

We love you, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day, and may your eighty-fifth year be filled with many, many blessings.

Dad on his eighty-third birthday.  You can be sure we'll take more pictures tomorrow!

Dad on his eighty-third birthday. You can be sure we'll take more pictures tomorrow!

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3 Responses to “Father’s Day: Picking the Moments That Define Your Life”


  1. 1 melissa June 21, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Thank you so much for sending my Mother’s autograph book my way.

    No problem. There were some treasures down there, weren’t there?

  2. 2 writeathome June 22, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Happy Birthday to your dad! What a blessing it is to still have him around, and I’m sure it was really special to him to be able to relive so many fond memories. Hope your dad and your husband both had a great Father’s Day.

    Thanks. We had a really good day. Hope your husband did as well. 🙂

  3. 3 Lillie July 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    hey, my email’s not working right now otherwise I would’ve sent you the pics I took on Grandpa’s bday already. Here is a link to a recipe I found that is really yummy. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/eggplant_feta_dip.html

    I will look forward to the pictures, then. Thanks for the recipe. We are rather fond of eggplant recipes.


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