Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Concern about my Dad

My sister just called me. Whenever she calls my heart races a little. She lives close by to my parents and has been responsible for their care. My parents are 89 and 96 years old and have had some health problems--needless to say, I always worry my sister is calling with bad news. Today she told me that my father was in the emergency room. His heart rate had slowed to thirty two beats a minute; he was going to have to have surgery to replace his pacemaker. She was concerned and wanted me to share this concern with her.

I never appreciated my father until he was eighty years old. I always loved him and saw that he was a good person, but I felt that he was a little close-minded and narrow in his view of life. It seemed to me that he judged people based on two criteria: net worth and political leaning. His description after meeting someone might be "he is worth a lot of money but I think he is a Republican." There was nothing worse to him than a Republican, except maybe a Nazi, but they were close.

I came to see that my father actually was a special person. First of all he loves my mother dearly. They have been married for sixty-seven years. They were both virgins when they got married and I am sure they have been faithful to each other. By itself this is an impressive achievement.

Second, he was never stopped working on himself. One of his main beliefs is to do something each day to improve himself. When I was young he would come home from working in the post office after riding on the subway for over two hours (which I swore I would never do) and spend the evening studying vocabulary development or spelling books. No reason for this except he believed in constantly learning and growing.

He also studied history and philosophy. One of his heroes was Arnold Bennett who wrote a book about How to Live Each Day. My dad would quote from the book and it would immediately cause a rebellion within me. It was only later after I had found a system , the Fourth Way, that I believed offered the most sensible and clear description of life and tried to introduce it to my father that I came to realize that Arnold Bennett teachings were very similar to the Fourth Way. My father through an entirely different path had come to the same place that I had. This was very eye-opening to me.

It wasn't that I grew to respect my father because he had come to believe some of the same things that I did. I saw that in his own way he was seeking the truth and trying to become a better person. These are good things, really good things, and everyone would be better off if they lived with these two goals.

Although my father looked up to rich people and saw them somehow as being superior, he achieved a financial success in his own right. He retired from the Post Office after 30 years and a second time after 10 years as a medical stenographer. This enabled him to get two pensions and social security that have allowed him and my mother to live comfortably for over thirty years.

I am waiting nervously now for my sister to get back to me with an update on my father's condition. I have been preparing myself for the worst for the last few years during which time he has had a heart attack, a couple of strokes, and brain surgery. Amazingly he has pulled through each time and continued to work on himself.

One of his main goals now is to be able to walk by himself up and down the hall outside the door of his assisted living facility. He takes exercise classes everyday. On a recent visit to his doctor, he asked the doctor why he was so tired. The doctor responded that this was not unusual for a 96 year old man. My father wanted a second opinion.

I have asked myself many times over these past years if I have any unfinished business with my father. Is there anything I have wanted to tell him that I haven't? I don't think there is. He knows I love him and I know he loves me. I hope he is OK, but whatever happens he will continue to be an inspiration to me and my family and to everyone who has come to know him. You can't ask for much more than that.

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