My father was not the overtly affectionate type, and I think I can speak for my mom when I say he wasn’t the romantic sort. But when I was a baby, he did turn on the charm for Valentine’s Day.
I can only guess that this was my first Valentine’s, since there is no date on the card. Dad refers to me by the nickname he gave me, “Wee Tookie,” a term of affection from his Irish upbringing. He signs the card: “Lots of love from Da Da,” which I remember calling him when I was very young.
The card is in excellent condition 40-plus years later, and is something I will always treasure.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.
I read a moving blog post today about someone with Alzheimer’s who pleasantly surprised their family caregiver with a rare moment of lucidity. They were able to express their love verbally before Alzheimer’s moved back in and took the light out of their eyes, returning them to a glassy, blank stare.
For most of us, these lucid moments are few and far between.
This made me think about the last lucid interactions I had with my father. He was at the point where he was barely able to verbally communicate. He would sometimes be able to utter a few words that made sense, but most of the time, he carried that sad, faraway look in his eyes. But I remember that moment so clearly in the hospital room, when Dad’s eyes lit up with recognition while I was holding his hand.
“Oh, there you are,” he said, as if startled by this temporary retreat into reality.
“At first I couldn’t see you but now I can,” Dad said with a wan smile.
I knew that was the moment to say what was burning in my heart. “I love you Dad,” I said, slowly, clearly.
“I know you do,” Dad said. Then he began to drift away from me, back into the isolating world of Alzheimer’s.
But it is the moment of love that I remember the most.
Mom is recovering in an amazing fashion from her major surgery on Friday. She’s still in the hospital, but may be released back home as soon as tomorrow!
Today Dad was weighing heavily on her mind. She began to weep as she talked about how she still missed him, the way he was before Alzheimer’s took hold of him
She mentioned that one of the first things that she remembered about Dad was his big, warm hands. She remembered when they were courting and holding his big, strong, warm hand and feeling comforted.
She remembers dating other guys when she was younger who had cold, rough hands and that was such a turn-off to her. But Dad was a winner because not only were his hands big and warm, but they were soft, despite decades spent as a manual laborer.
It’s interesting what we remember most of the people we love. It’s not always what one would expect, but it is sweet just the same.
My parents may never have been the most passionate of couples, but their love for one another endured for 40 years, and that’s saying a lot in today’s world. I remember being one of the only kids at school whose parents had NOT divorced, and all of the pain and suffering broken marriages inflict upon children. I don’t believe parents should stay together for the kids, because children are way smarter than we give them credit for and can see through artificial arrangements like that quite easily. I’m not sure what the answers are, but I think we have many more selfish expectations now about our ideal relationship, and when reality strikes, we are more than willing to jump ship.
My parents’ generation was different. A marriage vow was taken more seriously and literally. Sure, there were still divorces, but the vow wasn’t nearly as disposable as it is now. When my parents married in 1971, at 34 and 39, they were quite a bit older than the average marriage age for their generation. They found love later in life, and my dad may not have been the flashy guy with the cool car, like the type my mom had dated in the past. But my dad intrigued my mom, with his Irish accent and striking dark and handsome features. Dad was always more mum on what attracted him to mom.
Their relationship was not always perfect. There were fights, there were threats of divorce, but it all blew over and for the last half of their marriage, they had settled into a comfortable companionship. They were dependent upon one another yet independent in certain aspects, at least until my dad became ill. And the way my mom sacrificed to take care of dad, the toils of caregiving, the long trek to see him in the nursing home, she deserves a medal in my book. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what it is.
So happy Valentine’s Day Mom and Dad. You taught me more about love than I ever gave you credit for.