Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.
Proverbs 17:6 (NIV)
I was prepared for a shock, but it was still significant. I marvelled at the technology with such good resolution as I gazed upon my dad’s greyish face, his extremely sunken cheeks, misshapen jaw, eyes mostly closed and bloodshot around the rims. I felt my heart groan with compassion for this man who, along with my mom, raised me.
Racing through my mind were visions of fishing and hiking with Dad as a youngster, playing tennis with him through adolescence, playing tennis against him as a young adult, fighting with him all throughout my teen years, seeing the concern and lack of understanding in his eyes as I made some bad choices, seeing him go from sleepy eyed passenger to fully alert and near hysteria as he allowed me to drive to work one day and came close to a parked car, watching his face crumple when I hugged him as I arrived at the hospital for mom’s final hours, watching him angrily drive away when I refused to get in his banged up car with him at the wheel a few years ago. He had run down his own mailbox getting out of the driveway to cause those dents!
My dad is a pretty funny guy a lot of the time. When mom was alive, she could make him laugh a lot with her sarcastic wit. Both of my parents were teachers and we were raised in an environment with a lot of “play on words”. Family scrabble games, boggle events, and crosswords defined us for many years. Dad is a terrible speller, but manages to pull of scrabble wins once in a while with his impressive knowledge of 3-letter words.
I was looking for ways to get him to laugh tonight – standing in for mom. One opportunity came up when he finally opened his eyes wide. I said, “Uh oh – Happy Halloween!” I got a glimmer of a smile.
We chitchatted about nothing much at all. He assured me that my sister Karen and her husband were NOT taking care of him well at all, and that he wasn’t getting good food. I’m never sure if he just tries to keep people on their toes, or is just having a bad perspective day. One thing I do know is that he is receiving superior care all the way around. I asked him if he was in pain – “No.” I asked what he wishes for – “Medical help to fix this.” That won’t be happening – his condition is called PSP – Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. From a website:
“Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), and multiple system atrophy (MSA), are little-known but disabling brain diseases, sometimes called atypical Parkinsonian disorders. These rare neuro-degenerative diseases are often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Alzheimer’s disease. PSP, CBD and MSA lead to progressive decline, and although symptomatic treatment exists, there is no known cause or cure.”
Dad’s PSP was misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease – we know that because he has lived so long without the usual degeneration. But he is now at the end-stages of PSP.
The conversation was coming to a close and I asked him what else I could do for him. He thought about it and said, “Send me money.” I said, “Okay, how much,” figuring he would say something like “a million will do”. But instead, he said, “Ten dollars.” And I said, “I suppose you want it in U.S. dollars?” He said, “Doesn’t matter – whatever I can get.”
I enjoy these little tidbits of conversation with my dad, and feel very blessed to have them. I have now ministered to enough hurting people on the streets that have no contact with their family, to show me how fortunate I am to have a dad who has loved me all my life. Dad was an electronics teacher in high school for a while. It was in this environment that he thrived. He would bring the “troubled boys” to our house to play basketball and just hang out – they thought he was cool because he let them be who they were. He himself was a terrible student in high school, so I think he related to these young men in that way. I can’t ever remember my dad turning anyone away who was having troubles or issues….just the opposite – he seemed to go seeking for them and continuously bringing them to the house!
If I have even just a little bit of what my Dad has had for those who are troubled or hurting in life, that will be a good thing as I go about my work for the Lord.
Jesus, I pray for my Dad tonight. I pray that he sense that at the root of all things, you have been there as the first cause. That your love for him has shone through him even in response to those who prayed for him all their lives. I pray that you are merciful to Dad as he is now the one in the “pain” of his final days instead of the one to help. Reveal yourself to him through those who are close to him and care for him. Amen.