People are silly who think love and relationships slowly fade away after death, like champagne bubbles popping, or butterflies released into the air. For those who do not order their lives towards God, they usually pop their own bubbles, or pull their own plugs. However, for people who order their lives towards God, love and relationships are the only lasting reality there is.
My father was very hard working and very ordered. He served God first, then family and country.
After a distinguished military career, my father accumulated a basement filled with woodworking equipment in anticipation of his retirement from high up administrative positions in the federal government. He did not just get one or two of each piece of equipment or power tools, but several of each, of varying degrees of quality, and quantity, as well as an assortment of smaller items stored within cabinets and upon workbenches, neatly categorized and labeled. After his death, I was amazed at how many brand new pieces of equipment I found in boxes, never even opened, complete with owner’s manuals and even receipts.
My father was a lot like Santa Claus, preparing Santa’s workshop.
And it’s funny, because he loved Christmas and giving gifts. As he got older and I was a young mother myself, he’d induce me to help him go out in single digit weather to string Christmas lights around the front porch, where he lived with my mother still. It was always me and him, sharing a secret, or hiding a present. He instructed me in the ways of generosity and anonymous, unlimited self-less gift giving. He loved surprising people with fruit baskets, and things left in doorways.
He loved secrets.
He loved charity.
That’s how it was done best.
For my mom he’d instruct me to wrap and hide the extravagant gifts he purchased her, and how to sign the tags Love Scrooge, St Nick, Santa Claus, Hum Bug or John. He’d make me go back up into the attic and re-hide them, so she’d “accidentally” discover them when bringing down the Christmas ornaments.
My father had a plan. He had a vision. He had a dream. My father never expected a major stroke would wipe out his language center and render him totally handicapped right after his retirement. He remained that way, a painfully intelligent man, trapped without a voice, for ten years until his ultimate death from lung cancer ten years later.
My father’s tools sat untouched in the basement, for all those long years, accumulating dust. They sat and they sat and they sat, for years even after my father’s death, and we all became rather unaware of them. Our lives were very busy and we remained unaware of dust much as we remained unaware that my mother had finally escaped mental health care, and even her own mind.
When I returned to my father’s house and found out what the two neighbors my father had trusted and loved for so long (one on the left, and one ironically on the right) had done to him, it shook me. It frightened me. It disturbed me to the core, that mankind could be so cruel. For a long time I even felt physically ill, aware that a grief of this magnitude for my father could kill me if I lost faith in God. But then that would have been another injury and betrayal to him, as he never lost his.
My father had a soldier’s heart. He was not perfect. But the last Person he’d want to leave behind was Jesus, and I was probably a close second.
Because I was Daddy’s Baby.
To be continued, for this tale is not yet complete.