One day, God only knows when, I’ll wake up without a father. Dad, 90 now, can’t walk without assistance and he forgets more than he remembers. But he remembers the important things. God, his wife and children and most of the nearby descendants. Usually. He remembers the far past too, and almost every time we talk, he tells me a new story of his youth. His voice lifts, his syllables ring clear and I hear again the Daddy of my childhood. My first love. My constant love.
“Dear little sweetheart,” he sometimes calls me during our phone conversations. He remembers that the Preacher and I are coming from two provinces over to visit soon. He tells my sister that he’s going to sit on the pocket-sized deck off the living room with me. “Be sure you do,” she texted. “Apparently you’re the only one he can sit there with.”
That’s not true. And it’s not fair to my brother and sister, who live closer than I do; who do ever so much more for our beloved parents. But the mind becomes unreasonable when age and arteries take command. It forges a path to a place we can’t follow but must accept. We all understand.
One day, God only knows when, I’ll wake up without a mother. Mom, 95 now, also needs help walking. A cane. A walker. A wheelchair. But most of the time she shuns all those for her favourite support – leaning on my father’s walker. At their retirement manor, when able (and when one or the other isn’t in hospital) they make their way to dinner like that. It’s fitting. For almost sixty-two years they’ve leaned on each other, trusting God to smooth the path before them or give them what they need to travel it. He always has.
“I love you, Kathleen,” she says at the end of every call. She can’t arrange the hands on a clock correctly. She thinks it’s 1964. But she knows who she loves, and by God, she has loved her family – Dad and many children, birth and foster, whole and disabled. Loved and cared for us fiercely, with unchanging, selfless devotion. With a stubborn independence that been her most important survival skill for nearly a century.
One day my siblings and I will wake up orphans. We all know it. We accept that too. One day we’ll stand united at their caskets and talk about how wonderful heaven will be. We’ll speak with gratitude of our rich heritage of faith. We’ll share memories of our raising, and chuckle through our tears over the funny ones. We’ll commit to God our parents’ hard aging years; the long pain and the things we don’t understand. And we’ll thank him for the blessing of serving them as they served us.
But most of all, we’ll sense, more than discuss, the weighty baton they have passed to us. For we are next in line and many follow.
Lord, keep us faithful, like Mom and Dad.