I have a favorite picture of my Dad in my memory. It was about six years ago when my daughter had moved to Dallas and I went to visit her. While I was there, I borrowed her car and drove out to see my Dad, whom I had not seen for many years. He lived about 75 miles outside Dallas in a small, rural town called Weatherford. After many wrong turns and much studying of the map, I finally pulled into his driveway and there was my Dad, standing on the front porch of his house staring out at the beautiful view of rolling Texas grasslands. One hand was in his jacket pocket and the other hand was holding a mug of coffee. When he turned and saw me, he smiled.
He always smiled when he saw me and he was always happy when I visited. He and I would laugh about the silliest things and I would notice many little things that he and I would do exactly alike. He would stack up two or three newspapers before he read them and then go through them all at one sitting. When I use to get the paper, I would do the same thing. Sometimes when my Dad would walk into a room and a program would be on TV, he would stand for a while and watch without sitting down. I don't even think he realized that he was standing. The older I get, the more I find myself doing the same thing.
Now, as I make my way down to Dallas, again, probably for the last time, I try to fill my heart with that picture of him and try not to think of how he will look as he lies in a coma, struggling to take just one more breath. I have seen him three times in the last three years and each time another stroke had stolen part of his mind. Last May, when I visited, he knew me and we carried on a conversation but he couldn't remember my name. This last stroke has taken everything that made him who he was and, now, everyone who loved him is making their way to Dallas to say goodbye.
I will miss my Dad for many reasons but the most important one is that he made me feel special. When I was with him, all his attention was on me. He never talked about himself unless I asked specific questions and all the time I spent with him, I never heard him complain one time about anything. He was a very happy person and loved his life in Texas. He had a lot of love to give and I appreciated every bit of love that he gave to me. Even the last few days of his life, he held on and waited for me to come to say goodbye. The night I arrived, I sat with him for about an hour holding his hand and sharing memories of times we had spent together when I was a child. I hope that he heard me and I hope that he knew I was there. I like to think that he did. He died the next morning with his wife and me beside him. He died at home in the Texas that he loved.
I will always miss my Dad. I have some regrets about years that we didn't see one another but I also feel fortunate about the years that we did. I surprised him in 2005 for Christmas and I will never forget that look on his face or the tears in his eyes when he saw me.
He lived a long and happy 85 years and all who knew him could see how much he loved life. I think that is the main thing I have learned from my Dad is to be happy in life. Each new day is such a gift. Now, I can always have that memory of Dad, standing on his front porch enjoying the view, and then, he turns and smiles at me.