I hated my father! He demanded perfection in everything! I rebelled as a teenager and was kicked out of the house in October of my senior year. He said, “If you’re going to live in my house, you will live by my rules!” No way!!! I managed to graduate. Paid $100 a month for room and board at a friend’s house. Played sports and delivered pizza to make ends meet.
I had my ups and downs with my dad for many years after that. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that my dad had taught me leadership and a strong work ethic. I was an 18-year-old idiot, and didn’t realize it till I was nearly 30.
Now my dad was no angel, he had his flaws, as did I. But when I came to this realization, I knew I had to make things right. He was alienated from everyone in the family by now. Living alone in the Sandhills of Nebraska, raising dogs and tending cattle. I decided to make a visit, knowing he probably hated me.
When I arrived, he was welcoming. He took me to the local diner and bought me lunch. (He had already made me breakfast.) Then he took me around the area, he introduced me to many of his friends, and showed me some beautiful sites. We had small talk that was pleasant. We got back to his trailer, he fed the dogs, then it was him and I, alone...
We started talking around 10PM. He began telling me everything I had ever done that hurt and disappointed him. All I could say, through tears, was, “I’m sorry, dad.” Over and over, until 2AM, “I’m sorry dad.” When he was done, he said goodnight, and, “I love you, son.” I never heard a cross word from him from that night, till my last conversation with him in this world. He forgave me, I forgave him, and our conflict was over... forever!
I contacted my brothers and sisters (7 in all) and told them that dad is alive and well. Provided his address and phone number. One by one, they reached out to him. He reconnected with his children and grandchildren. Everyone was involved, but one sister, who lived closest, helped him get settled in a VA nursing home when his health began to fail. She was an incredible help to him!
It had been 7 years since I had seen him, but I just knew I had to make a visit with him, and let my kids see him. We had a glorious day. He talked to my kids like only he could talk! Deep! Motivational! Inspiring!
When we left, I knew, this was the last time I would see him in this life. I told him I loved him, kissed him on his scruffy, warm, stubble bearded cheek, and said goodbye. As I drove away, tears streamed down my cheeks. The last goodbye...
A few months later, I got “the call” that my dad had passed away. Heartbroken, yet knowing, that this day would come. No regrets!!! He loved me, and I loved him. That is really the only thing that mattered. All of us kids went to the funeral. Nothing fancy. Each of us shared our thoughts about our dad. The tough love. The crazy stories. The push for excellence in all we did. When I walked up to him the last time, I kissed his clean shaven, cold cheek, I realized he was already gone, and that kiss meant nothing.
We have today! Anything may happen tomorrow. Make amends. Make things right, where you can. The things that really matter, the things that really count in life, are family and the people around us. Don’t waste another day. Reach out to someone today! Just because you can... A father, a mother, a sibling. It’s not about who they are, it’s about who you are! Be brave! Be bold! Be strong! Make a difference in your world. Make a difference in your family and for your family. Life is too short to waste another day.
Written by a Care Manager.