I had three exciting bits of news to share with my father on Father’s Day. I like it when I have news. His days at the Veteran’s Home run together—there’s not much to distinguish a Tuesday from a Saturday unless the Elk’s Lodge is singing their slightly-off-key tunes in the common room. News gives us something to talk about. Since his head injury two years ago, he’s quiet, so I have to assume responsibility for maintaining the conversation. He and I have never been good at silence. Or at least I should say I haven’t been good at it. Too much quiet makes me want to pull out my smart phone and play Wordfeud or check into foursquare just to have some sense of activity.
So what was the news? First, my son D. broke his foot. Not that this is exciting per se, but it was a first for D., and he managed to get out of the last two days of school (although those are always the most fun). Plus, it was a pseudo-football injury, which sounds so stoic, and I knew my father would be impressed. So that was my lead. He responded appropriately: “That’s terrible!” and then lamented that D. would have to be a couch potato for most of July.
But even D. himself was cheered up by our second bit of news—that we got a new kitten. Her name is Tuna. I knew my dad would appreciate her because she looks a lot like Tigger, our cat that went missing back in the ’70s. Tigger had been declawed because she loved wallpaper a little too much, appreciating it throughout our 100-year-old home, room by room. She must have met her sorry end by running across a hawk who had sharper claws than her. I showed my dad pictures of Tuna and he admired her obligatory kitty cuteness.
The best news, which I shared right before he went to lunch: I signed a purchase & sale on a new house on Thursday. I knew from the start that he’d love this house—it’s open concept, custom built, surrounded by woods, and you can’t see the neighbors. It is a lot like his and my mom’s last house—and when she passed away and my father had his accident, we had no choice but to sell it. Cleaning it out was an unsatisfying and depressing year-long project.
So how did he respond to all of this? He was thrilled with the house, and said, “You have a lot going on this month!” I agreed, and told him my focus was mainly on moving and on all the details that can drive you nuts up to the closing date. He then said, “I only wish I could help you with it.”
This was the first time he had expressed much frustration with his situation. Considering the fact that he’s in a wheelchair, that he can barely remember what day it is, and that he can’t get in my car because his knees are so contracted, there’s really nothing he can do. So I just said, “You are helping me, Dad. Just being able to share it with you helps a lot.”
Remember when you were a kid, and something exciting happened, and you couldn’t wait to tell your parents because you wanted them to be proud of you? When you got that “A” on that math test, or when you received an MVP award in soccer, or when you got into that college you were dreaming about? I miss that—it’s like losing the very ground beneath your feet. You have to find new people to tell, people who just don’t understand as much as your parents do how miraculous it is that you have your act together some of the time.
This morning, before I headed up to see my dad, I went to yoga. And as I was nearing the end of my practice, doing kapalbhati breathing, I was feeling a sense of completion, a sense of fullness with all that went on this week. A sense of triumph even. But as I looked at myself in the mirror and breathed out, I suddenly recognized I was looking into my dad’s eyes. I have my mother’s face, my mother’s toes, my mother’s heart. But I have my father’s brown eyes. And as much as I can, I am trying to keep my eyes on him, just like I promised.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.