Me: “What are you doing tonight?”
Dad: “Sitting by the fireplace.”
Me: “And doing what?”
Dad: “Absolutely nothing. What are you doing tonight?”
Me: “Grabbing wine and relaxing.”
Dad: “So why do you want to know what I’m doing?”
Me: “Are you alone?”
Dad: “No. Jennie will be home. Do you wanna come over?”
That was one of the last text conversations I had with my father pre-traumatic brain injury. I have scrolled through our texting conversations about a hundred times since the accident. I have reflected on many years of conversation we have had. He used to joke that I was adopted. He has always been a man of few words. He referred to me as “one that never lets anything fester”.
The week leading up to his accident, I confided in him about possible cancer in the family and an emergency appointment we had to go. He responded with, “Do you want a turkey?”, followed up with “I’m going to help your husband cut some wood”.
The day before the accident, he brought wood over to my house against me telling him not to. He was stubborn and strong-willed. He also wanted to do something, but talking about things isn’t his niche. He ‘does’ instead.
I’ve been through some experiences in my life where the person I once knew is no longer the same – figuratively and literally. It doesn’t make it any easier. You’d think it would, wouldn’t you? As if having experienced the concept of the person that was is no more, would prepare one. Make it easier somehow. Feel as though you know what to expect in some way. And yet, it doesn’t.
What it does is throw me for a loop. Every time. There is a lot of processing. An enormous amount of reflection. A search for meaning. A quest for understanding. And finally, a peace of come what may – I’ll do my best and roll with it.
I’m glad that I never let things fester. I talked to him about my feelings. I talked to him about some of his life choices that I needed to understand. I talked to him about his faith. I questioned him on things. I needed to know what he wanted when he died and I made him give me specifics. I counseled him when he was in dark places. I fussed at him when he acted out of values. I dissected his values – to myself and with him. I had lengthy talks about Christa with him. I asked questions some never asked. I always asked the questions on my heart.
I spoke in depth about my teenage years during the ‘christian school days’. I reflected to him about my parenting and the differences between him and I, as well as to the ‘whys’. I always voiced my concerns, my fears, and my love. Knowing him, he wasn’t always crazy about these conversations, but he always met me where I was.
I wish that I had more time. I suppose in some ways, I had all the important conversations with him. You know the conversations we all wish we had? Yeah I had those. I made a point in having them and he actually got pretty good at doing the same when he needed to. He called me a lot during some difficult times in his life. For a strong, stoic man that rarely made himself vulnerable, he became human throughout the years. He became vulnerable to me. He voiced his fears. He admitted his short-comings. He apologized for mistakes. He made me promise to help him in times of weakness. He became human.
He has told me numerous times throughout life, “You did good Sis”.
The playing field has filled with mines, potholes, and mountains. Not sure if I’ll hear those words from him again, or if he’ll even understand what it means. But I made a promise to him years ago and he once knew that I evaluate my values like few do. I will do what I can.
The other day, I asked him, “Do you know who I am?”
He answered, “You’re Sis”
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