“Thank God the war came along,” my dad said one evening in September 2011, as I tucked him into bed.
While no one wants a war to be the answer to any difficult situation, I found this comment hysterical, especially coming from a man who devoted his life to his nations as a Captain in the Naval Reserves. In that instant, I realized there were so many things I’d yet to learn about my dad.
In my childhood, I always thought my dad must have been a shy, insecure man who was probably terribly awkward around other women before my mom. There was never any mention of girlfriends in his high school days or college. And there was never any flirtatious banter at our family parties that is common practice between men and women, even if only in jest. In his opinion, that would be deemed inappropriate.
So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered he was a highly sought stud at one time.
“Dad,” I began. “Did you ever have any girlfriends before you met mom?”
“Oh yes. There was a nurse I was dating when I worked for Standard Oil.”
‘Really?’ I said surprised. Being that he was tight-lipped about his past, this came as a complete shock
“Yeah,” he continued. “She was a nice lady, but she wanted to get married, and I wasn’t going to have anything to do with that.”
“Wow! You never told me this before,” I giggled
Rubbing his lower lip with his index finger, he sighed heavily and continued, “And there was a girl from high school who tracked me down after college. She wanted to get married too. There were lots of girls who wanted to marry me.”
Looking at this crippled soul as he reminisced, I could see the memory of it all was giving him the willies. Leaning in closer, so as not to miss one-minute tale of his so-called horrible saga, I asked, “How did you handle that?”
“I just stopped calling them.”
Now we all know what it’s like to be dumped by a person of interest. One day everything seems fine and the next – they vanish. Knowing what a gentleman my father always was, I was horrified to think he could be cruel.
“Dad! That wasn’t very nice,” I admonished.
“Oh, they both made such pests of themselves.”
“So, you just stopped calling her?”
“Well, fortunately, the war came along. I was called to duty, so that took care of that.”
And with his impish grin, he said, “I knew they weren’t the right girls for me, so I wasn’t going to waste anyone’s time.” Then pulling his blankets to his nose, cradling his rosary to his chest, and rocking his head back and forth on the freshly fluffed pillow, he continued, “You know, time is too precious to waste. We don’t get it back so we have to make it count.”
When people hear I’m caring for my dad, 75% of the time the reaction is one of horror. The mess, the diapers, the invasion of privacy, and the idea of entrapment is beyond their comprehension. But each night, as I kiss him goodnight, I can’t help but think what an incredible gift God has given me. Sure, it’s not easy. In fact, there are days where I crumble into a pile of tears, but in these precious moments, late at night as the world falls asleep, I learn something new – a tidbit from his past, a piece of my heritage, a lesson to be learned, and a treasured memory of a father and daughter sharing their life stories that I will carry in my heart forever.
It’s moments like these that make life truly worth living, and I’m honored to have him near.
Our parents all have tales to tell. Some spout them freely, while others hold onto them tight. Have you ever been shocked by something your parent told you?
Wow Jackie, so beutilful, so much love you have for him and he for you, you are indeed blessed.