Well, my Dad went back to Michigan on Thursday after spending a little over a week down here with us. Having my Dad here this time was such a good thing for both of us, for quite a few reasons. Not that it isn't always a terrific thing to spend some time with him, but circumstances made this visit important on top of being special.
I was more than a little nervous about the Dad I might see this time since he was just a month out of the operating room after a triple by-pass surgery. It's hard enough to see your parents age naturally -- experiencing the major changes medical conditions may cause can be downright excruciating. All of the verbal health and recovery reports from Dad prior to his visit were glowing, but my Dad has always been one to gloss over the bad stuff in favor of anything positive so I was a tad suspicious that the reality that would walk in the front door might be quite different than the word picture that had been painted for me. I can't put into words the relief I felt from seeing first-hand that if anything, his pre-visit updates were somewhat conservative about how well his 82 year old self was bouncing back. Remember those T-shirts about Nixon that said "Tanned, Rested, and Ready"? That sums up Dad to a T. His scars look years old instead of weeks old, he's lost another 20 pounds, his eyes are sparkling, and he's already complaining about feeling useless when he's here because we won't let him push our manual lawn mower through our hill side back yard in the mid-day tropical sun. Even my brother is blown away by this old guy's ability to heal -- I talked to my Bro a few days after Dad got here and the first thing he said was, "Isn't Dad amazing?" Yes, he really is.
But one of the biggest reasons that getting Dad here with me during this time was unspoken, but understood, between us. It was two years ago this upcoming week that the most wonderful woman either of us have ever known (or will ever know, for that matter) was taken from us. My Mom died from medical malpractice on June 14, 2005. My Dad is coping with the grief much, much better than I ever will -- their song was "We'll Meet Again" and his absolute certainty that they will be together again has enabled him to celebrate all of the wonderful times they shared and what an incredibly wise, impressive, loving woman he was blessed to share his life with for over 60 years. But even though he is doing really well, we both know that the anniversary of her death is a horrible, horrible time filled with memories of just how bad she suffered during her last few weeks, and that having the one other person who really knows how special and unique she was nearby helps to get you through when the tears start to flow (as they're doing right now -- I miss you bad, Mom).
The week couldn't have been better. We didn't do much of anything at all -- Dad rested when he was sleepy, ate when he was hungry (which isn't often at all anymore), christened our long awaited completion of our dining room and new dining room table, and filled his waking hours watching movies and sitting on the porch reading his civil war book and doing Sudokus when we weren't spending time together. We all made our pilgrimage to the casino, the highlight even of each Dad visit. This casino trip was one for the books, too. I dubbed Dad the Kiss of Death (aka KoD) a long time ago because not only did he seem to lose all his money at the casino, just his presence within a 20 foot radius of any member of his family would cause them to start losing, too. But on this trip, Dad became the Anti-KoD and went home about $100 ahead of what he brought and contributed to a late-night rally that enable the hip hubby and I to put a similar amount back into our pockets.
I knew this visit was something truly special when I woke up the day after he left for home. Usually when a house guest leaves, my first feeling on waking the morning after they're gone is that we're finally alone again and have our house back. But this time, my first thought was wondering if Dad was up yet. Instead of feeling like someone extra had gone, it felt like we were one regular short. And that's a pretty cool thing, especially when it comes to parents and their adult children living together.
Dad will be back in the fall, probably right after my mother-in-law visits in late October. I can't wait to see him again -- I'm terribly mindful of the fact that we may not have too many more visits to spend with each other. And I don't intend to miss a single opportunity to be with my Dad, and am so very grateful that we not only have this time but also the financial means and good enough health to make the most of it. Like the Master Card commercial tag line says, priceless.