This morning something came back to me which I would like to share. You know, sometimes we get clogged up with negative thoughts or we concentrate on what’s not so great in our lives. But this was a moment of sweetness, and looking back, I will always be glad that I did it.
My father died three years ago. He had lung cancer that had metastasized from the base of tongue, and had many issues with eating and swallowing. He lived his last year in an adult care home. As he lived in Tucson, Arizona and I live in Michigan, we talked on the phone daily, but our visits had to be spaced out.
On the occasion of his 89th birthday (he died three months short of 90), I wanted to fly out again. My husband, always accommodating, agreed. So I went shopping. I bought books that I thought he would enjoy, wrapping paper that I thought was cheery (no wrapped presents on the plane), the perfect cards, a framed picture of my brother and me, and other small things for him that would decorate his room. I even bought a cool picture frame that would eventually hold a photo of his beloved German Shepherd whom he’d had to give up. When we arrived I also bought a colorful Happy Birthday balloon.
I’d talked with the owner of the home, and she and I planned this out to a T. She would walk into his room, presumably to check on his feeding tube (which she did several times a day), and my husband and I were to stand in the door quietly. His recliner faced away from the door.
You see, this was a surprise visit.
A. said, “Hello, N. Let me take a look at that tube.” And then she turned toward the door and nodded to us.
She backed away as we approached his chair. My husband was behind me. My father didn’t see me, as he was involved watching CNN.
“Happy birthday, Dad,” I said as I came into his view.
And the next moments were priceless. It was the classic double take.
“Hi, Dad,” I said with as much equanimity as I could muster as I hugged him and tousled his white hair.
“What, uh, how did you get here?”
“Oh, American Airlines did a pretty good job of that!”
He just kept staring at me, as if he couldn’t quite believe that we were really there, that we would do such a thing. As I handed him the birthday balloon, piled the gifts into his lap, and started clicking pictures, I noticed little tears glistening in his eyes.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
(Four years later I can still see his surprised face, hear the nuances of his words, and feel the emotion of the time.)