My dad's birthday was yesterday. He is now 81 years old and just as happy to have a birthday as a 5 year old is. It blows my mind because this past year has been difficult for him as he has had to learn to "be alone" for the first time in his entire life. EVER. He would never ever ever have you suspect how sad and lonely he really is. It's not that he puts on a good face and pretends to be something he's not. He will be honest and tell you on the bad days that he's lonely and it's hard waiting on me to call in the mornings just to hear another living voice, but he never feels sorry for himself about it and he keeps moving his feet. He never questions life. He understands, this is part of it. "One of us is always going to have to leave the other behind and that means someone's going to be lonely for a little while." Sigh. I guess you have to get to 80 and KNOW you have been blessed with true love for 60 years to really be able to process that and not want to crawl in a hole? Because just the thought breaks my heart and turns me into a puddle. (Lesson #1 growing old together is both beautiful and scary.)
He reminds me a lot of a kindergartner right now. It's funny how things can be so new when you are 80 years old. It's been years since he's been social with friends. I should make that decades. Most of them, well, almost all of them, have already passed away. I get frustrated with him often, thinking he should reach out or find ways to make new friends. Right? Seems so simple when you say it out loud. (Lesson #2 Find "hobbies" you have great passion for early in life and don't walk away from them. They can be a connection later on to others, BUT make sure you have at least one that you can enjoy alone that doesn't require a second party.)
A few weeks ago I got a message from a friend in my hometown "hey....just making sure you know your dad found his way to mom and dad's house today. It was great! When dad saw him on the deck he turned to mom and said '*#@dammit Jan, there's Mac South!' They were all so happy to see each other and they just sat on the deck and talked and talked. I just wanted to let you know in case he shouldn't have been driving."
I sat there with my mouth open for a few minutes....not because he shouldn't be driving, he's been driving since mama died and doing fine, but I couldn't believe he did it!! Mainly, I couldn't believe he found their house. Then I cracked up thinking about her dad and his words of exclamation. Isn't it great when some things never change? (Lesson #3 Stay in contact with your friends. Don't let work take over your life.)
I waited for a few days for him to tell me about it and when he didn't, I brought it up. He definitely was trying to hide it from me. I'm not sure why, but obviously he was worried he might "get in trouble" for his journey. I told him that I was happy that he did it and needed to go more often because it seemed to have made their day as much as his. Then I asked him how it all went down. I mean, it had been at least 30 years since they had even seen each other in passing, even though they had at one time all been best of friends.
"Well, I was driving around and just thought I'd go see their old house. I didn't even know if they lived there or not. Everything was so grown up and changed, I didn't know if I would find it, but there it was. I sat out in the car for a long time and then I finally said 'Mac, you ain't ever gonna know unless you go knock on that door.' So I did."
He was so happy. I haven't seen him that happy in a long time. Like since I was a kid, I think. He talked and talked and talked about their visit.
See, the thing is this. I can provide my dad company, but I can never be his age...I can never be "an old friend"....I can never reminisce with him about my mom as a young woman before kids and careers made her the person I knew. He needed that. He needed to laugh with someone who also remembered him as he remembers himself. (Lesson #4 Don't be afraid to knock on life's doors.)
Today's compliment goes to my dad. YOU ARE SO INCREDIBLY BRAVE doing this all alone, when your mind and your body aren't exactly at the top of their game and I know all you really want is to be with her again. YOU MAKE ME SO PROUD.
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