“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.” ~Oscar Wilde

March 28th, 2012

At this writing, my father was 90. I flew to Michigan to visit him. I felt he needed cheering up after a mild heart attack and a stint in the hospital. He had to start using a walker. While I was there, I shared lunches and dinners with him and the other “inmates,” as he referred to his fellow residents in his assisted living facility. Before and after mealtimes, I took him for rides in my rented Yaris.

He had spent his childhood summers nearby on property his grandfather had purchased on a hill above Crystal Lake. Lake Michigan sits on the horizon like a giant bowl of soup. Dad brought us kids there every summer, as well.  One of the family’s favorite places to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan is Point Betsie.

One afternoon, our father/daughter excursion took us along the south shore of Crystal Lake, toward the main road that leads to the Point Betsie lighthouse. I wasn’t sure how long he wanted to be in the car, so after that long stretch of road, I suggested we turn around. “We can go back and get a different perspective of the lake,” I said.

He spoke right up and pointed toward Route 31. “Can’t we go see…Lake Michigan?”

“You want to go to Pt. Betsie?”

“Yeah!” he said, his eyes lighting up. The roles had definitely reversed. I agreed, turned onto the main road, and drove several miles to our beloved Pt. Betsie. It was late afternoon, too early for a sunset, but the magic of the place endures in any season or time of day.

It was mid-March; not a single car or person was in sight. I pulled the car right up to the opening in the sand framed by two fluttering poplar trees where we could watch the waves crash up on shore. We sat for a while in silence.

“I’m just going to pop out for a sec to take a picture,” I said. It was cold, so I’d be quick. No sooner than I got out of the car, I noticed my dad get out of the car! Oh my god, what is he doing?! I thought. The March wind whipped my hair around. I thought about getting out his walker, but there was no time. This man was on the move! With his arm hooked in mine, he proceeded to walk off the pavement and onto the sand where his steps were less sure-footed.

I knew where he was headed. I had to go with it, though I feared with every frail step that he would fall and I wouldn’t be strong enough to pick him up. We were alone and far away from help. I glanced at my phone. Two bars. This is crazy, I thought.

Every bone in my body told me this was not a smart idea, but, I knew how important this was to him. I mindfully watched his every step until he reached his favorite bench and sat down. I sat next to him. Bundled up, we watched the waves respond to the wind, a flood of memories filling our heads.

His spirit to continue to embrace life impressed me. At 90, he still had the drive to go forward and reach his goal.  This spirit lives in me as a gift that he passed down. He was not a perfect father; there is no such thing. He had a way of brushing off my childhood exuberance with a simple, “Ok,” and look away as if to say, “That’s enough.” He didn’t realize that he helped quiet my voice in the world. It worked for a long time.

Now with tables turned, I modeled for him what it means to support and celebrate someone’s passion and drive.  And I quietly thank him for instilling that drive in me.


One Response to ““Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.” ~Oscar Wilde”

  1. Melissa on March 29, 2012 1:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. It makes you really think about the important things in life. Having moved away from family, it’s both easy and hard at times to miss them, but in the end, you will always miss the time you didn’t spend with them.

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