My dad sent us a letter graciously offering us the basement. “Your mother and I are elderly now and we would welcome you staying with us.” That was nice idea, but depressing. Lord willing, it won’t happen. But at this moment, I am back in their basement. My dad has gone off to work—where he volunteers four mornings a week, and I am home with my mother.
I arrived at their place around 1:30 yesterday afternoon. They were dressed and waiting for me and I drove them to Perkins. At Perkins they have their own booth and waitress. The hostess greets them by name and tells them how good they look. The waitress does not bring them a menu for my mother always gets pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream, while my father always gets eggs, sausage, hash browns and pancakes. My mother is not zippy, so as they are moving to their booth, the waitress already has their foreordained raspberry iced tea on their table. My dad tells me this is his treat and I can get anything I want. He then hands me a coupon booklet showing me what is on sale. I get the cheeseburger special, and even though I have already asked for water, the special includes a coke and fries. “He will have a coke also,” my dad instructs the waitress. My dad is better than a GPS in giving me driving directions. Not only does he tell me where to turn but when to get into which lane, when to slow down and when to turn on my turn signal.
This hasn’t changed much from when I was a kid. My dad took care of things. Every day he would wake me up, find my homework assignment and put my shoes by the front door. For church on Sunday, I would usually be reading something and my reading would be only interrupted when it was time to step out the car and into the church. Frequently my father would pick up somebody on the way to church. I remember one really nice girl who we picked up, but who I finally met after she got her own car. “Oh, I remember you,” I said to her. “You’re the girl my parents used to pick up.” “For about a year,” she told me.
When we got home from Perkins we all played Scrabble. My dad kept making sure my mother had her full seven letters on her tray. I won. I usually win but my father notes that I get all the letters that have more than one point on them. My dad and I took a walk to the grocery store. The hills are steep in his neighborhood. “This is a really hard hill for me,” he told me while his breathing barely increased. It had bothered him at age 86, his energy was beginning to wane. “I must have had a virus or something because now I am back to my 3 miles a each day.”
My father’s life has always been defined by faithfulness. Always, if there is a job that needs to be done, he is quick to do it. He retired from teaching grade school at age 62. Then, for 20 years, he was a full-time volunteer at Emmaus Bible College where he worked as the assistant to the president Dan Smith. He did any number of jobs, most of which related to mailing one thing or another. For the past ten years he has been ly taking care of mailings for my sister’s family’s organization called Bright Lights. For about three decades he came up to Story Book for the two family camps each summer where he did all the pots and pans and led the men’s afternoon discussion. Though my father has a near photographic intelligence, he has never been drawn to jobs that offer much status. Steadiness has been his gift, a very well practiced gift most beautifully manifested in the care of my mother.