Monday, January 3, 2011

Start With a Family

Dad and the Quiet-But-Stubborn Daughter
It never crossed my father's mind that he would outlive his wife. He was, after all, four years older (which led to family stories of how "If I'd have taken your mother to the senior prom, I would have been going with an eighth grader,") and while Dad's always been the head of the household, Mom was the pivot point around which we orbited.

He was not, and is not, a chauvinist. A feisty wife and three mouthy daughters (well, two mouthy daughters and one quiet-but-stubborn daughter) made him realize early on that women's rights are nothing more than human rights. Still, he always walks on the street side of the sidewalk when he's with a female, just in case there's danger from the street. He never got over calling his secretaries "the girls," even when his wife and daughters pointed out that was not only politically incorrect but potentially offensive.

So even though he was an advocate for women and the endless possibilities they should have, he never learned to cook, or to sew on a button. He hadn't made his own bed since the day before he got married. Dad without Mom was unthinkable--until one year ago.

The first morning after we came home from the hospital without his wife, Dad woke up, climbed out of bed, and pulled up the sheets. Then he went to the kitchen where my brother taught him how to scramble an egg.

This year, at age 84, he has gone on a friendship trip to Panama. He has laid a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as part of a World War II veterans flight. He has worked on committees, and advocated for his small town, and played the bass in the community orchestra. He won five gold medals swimming at the Senior Olympics "but I missed looking over and seeing your mother give me the thumbs up when I climbed out of the pool."

I don't know how other families cope when they lose their pivot point, but my siblings and I are lucky. We like each other, and we believe family is worth saving. We're following the lead of our father and adapting to our new reality.

We're pivoting around a different point.

1 comment:

  1. Sara,
    I have just read all of your 2011 posts and they are each beautiful and touching. this one, particularly is so poignant. thank you for sharing your life.