It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer! I knew it was going to be hard, but the terrible, horrible part surprised me. On the one hand I was preparing for leaving my second child in the States at a university that has approximately 54,000 more students than where I studied at her age, and of which the total amount of students our family knew at said university was 0. It took pretty much all of my strength to get in the rental car and drive away from that girl and put thousands of miles between us. Seriously. So, I was sort of prepared for that “bad part”.
The terrible, horrible part came as I was helping her settle in. It came through an emergency phone call from Canada. My mom had fallen down the stairs in the middle of the night and had been rushed to the hospital via ambulance. Although she was okay, she would need surgery on her ankle and an extended stay in the hospital.
It’s always terrible to hear news like this when you are far away from someone you love. This news was complicated for our family for several reasons:
- My mom is 82.
- My mom lives with my dad alone.
- Their 4 children live in 4 different countries.
- My mom is the sole caregiver of my dad (also 82) who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers 6 years now.
Thanks to my parent’s church (Glengate Alliance you rock!) and the kindest, most giving couple I know (Ray and Dorothy Peters), both my mom and dad were taken care of in the best way, while I bought my ticket and arrived in Canada just in time to care for my mom getting out of the hospital and settle my dad in a long term care facility 20 minutes from my mom. Somehow God, with the help of Ray and Dorothy Peters, made miracles happen and found an incredible place for my dad to live out the end stages of Alzheimers. My mom did a great job of caring for him for all these years, but now his needs were more intense, and it was time to find him a home.
Just writing that sentence makes me cry. You see, my dad is so amazing. He’s the smartest man I’ve ever known – tender, gentle, loving, wise, compassionate, studious, giving, kind, polite, down to earth, humble. The man was years ahead of the average churchgoer on what it meant to live out your Christian faith. He would laugh at the silly fads like “movie houses are den of iniquities”, or “cards are the devils play ground”.
Obviously, I’ve been mourning my dad for a while. Alzheimers does that. It’s not like it just crept up on our family. We have known for some time what was happening. But the last afternoon I was with him in his new home, and I knew that I would be getting on a plane to go back to Ecuador the next day, I walked him around the gardens and then up to the social room. I had him sit in a chair by the window and as instructed (so as not to upset or confuse him with my own emotions), I didn’t say goodbye, I just squeezed him hard like he used to squeeze me, and turned around and walked away. Just like that. With my heart bursting, and snot running down my face, I just walked away… fast.
And now I find myself mourning him still. Almost daily. But it’s not why you think. Well, maybe a little bit. I do miss asking him for advice, and him calling me “doll”. I miss him trying to fix my bad hair day by buying me chocolate. I miss curling up next to him on the couch and asking him questions about God, or maybe boys, or what to study next, or parenting, or what to do in a certain situation. Sometimes we would sit to watch “The Sullivans”, or “Little House on the Prairie”, or “River vs. Boca” soccer game on TV (depending on which country we were in), and he would whisper how much he loved me, and I would tell him my secrets while he hugged me and smiled. I miss watching him do an Irish gig, or laugh loud at something I say, or when he would tell me I had the most beautiful, expressive eyes (he loved my eyes but I always wanted his blue eyes). I miss him telling me how great I was, or challenging me to be better. So yes, I mourn because I miss him, but I also mourn because in the past 20 years I have come to realize that my dad is a dying breed. I mourn for the people around me. They don’t get to have my dad or someone like my dad in their lives. This makes me cry too.
Go on our Inca Link website (www.incalink.org) and check out our projects. See those kids in those pictures? I know them. I’ve had the privilege to love on lots of them. Did you know that until about 6 months ago, 100% of the girls that had passed through Casa Elizabeth did not know their father? 100%! That same percentage had a stepfather or father figure that did things that should have them in prison! I wish I were exaggerating. See the new pictures we have up of our Oasis program? Look at those kids. When I’ve cuddled up with them and told them how wonderful they are, the secrets they whisper to me are too dark to even write here. I mean it. And I mourn for these kids, because the majority has NO IDEA what a dad like my dad could be like.
Dad, I wish I could tell you these things so you could understand. You were the most amazing dad a girl could ask for. Thank you. Rich and I just sponsored another boy in the Oasis program in your name. He is living in a home where his mom is struggling with a mental disease. His step dad loves to torture him. If this boy gets caught going up to our church, he gets beat up. But he keeps going, not because of some false sense that he must go to church to please God, but because there he finds our Oasis leaders and they love him. Lucy will take him and clean him up and then try to fatten him up. Laura will play with him and teach him how much value he has. He will spend time with Ricardo, a construction worker with a tender heart who is a lot like you, Dad; he loves God, his wife and children and is an example of a loving dad. He will enjoy time with Jhonny, a man of many talents that loves you and loves your children.
So I dedicate this sponsorship to you, Dad. It´s just a little seed of the love you planted in me that I want to plant in others.