Grateful for Imperfect Love

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This morning I was looking through old pictures. I came across this one. It’s one of my dad and my son.  It was taken three years ago during one of our family vacations back to Arizona. Things have changed so much since then. A year after this picture was taken, my dad suffered a serious stroke.

A once independent, mobile, and always on the go man became confined to a bed and a wheelchair.  Now when we go home to visit, we don’t take walks up into the Huachuca Mountains near his house.  Although he desperately wants to, my dad isn’t able to live in that house anymore.  He needs 24 hour care. Today, he lives in an assisted living house in Tucson.  His daily routine is to sleep, eat, and sit outside in the sun for a few minutes on the caretaker’s back porch.

Sometimes my phone rings in the middle of the night.  I know he gets bored and completely forgets what time it is.  I’ve tried to convince him to take up a hobby but for years his only hobbies involved building houses and driving…both of which he can’t do anymore.  I’ve tried to encourage him to interact with people, to become more engaged with the three other residents at the house, but he doesn’t.  He’s 74 years old and has always been a loner…an anti-people kind of person.

I want to make things better for my dad…but I can’t.   In so many ways over the last two years, I have been reminded of just how powerless we are to fix things or change people. 

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In honor of Father’s Day, I’ve seen a lot of beautiful words being written about dads.  I love my dad, but these posts make me realize just how different our father/daughter relationship really was when I was a child.  And yet…I am incredibly grateful. I am grateful that even though the relationship I had with my dad was far from perfect, my dad was in my life.  My dad protected me.  Some people can’t even say that.  

I’ve come to believe, my dad managed to do the best that he knew how to do.  So today, I celebrate that:

  • When my brothers and I were young, my dad went to night school for 6 years (and worked full-time during the day) in order to make a better life for his family.
  • There was a season when my dad worked three jobs at one time in order to provide for his family.
  • My dad made sure we always had enough food on the table. We always had a roof over our head.
  • My dad wanted to make sure he helped with our college education.  He cared enough to push us to get a college degree.
  • When my mom died,  my dad tried hard to become more to me.  I finally started hearing the words “I love you” come out of his mouth.  Today, we say them to each other at the end of every phone call.
  • When my first marriage fell apart, my dad welcomed me home with open arms.  He helped me find a good job, he provided a roof over my head and food to eat
  • When I was offered a new job 2000 miles away, my dad helped to move me across the country, he helped me to find a new place to live.
  • My dad has never been great at giving gifts.  For my birthday, I’ve received odd things like a jug of organic household cleaner and herbal vitamins.  But, I’ve always known that this was my dad’s way of taking care of me…it was his way of saying “I love you.”

Today…I celebrate my dad.  I celebrate everything he was and is to me.  Thank you, Dad, for loving me and for being in my life.  It wasn’t/isn’t perfect.  But it doesn’t have to be.

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