My dad was a very good man.
He passed away on Sept 7, 2011.
Dad was ninety-one years old.
Dad was not a “toucher”.
You see my Dad was a farmer at heart. He wanted to grow crops and raise cattle and hogs. He had real talent for farming. He was a navy veteran of World War II. He was an educator, teaching at Matoon School in Crittenden County and Salem School in Livingston County. He was a basketball coach. He was a Kentucky Wildcat fan. He loved “them Cats”.
I used to chuckle when Dad talked about his Cats because he had a mental block on John Calipari’s name. He pronounced it capillary, you know any of the fine branching blood vessels that form a network between the arterioles and venules.
That’s ok; I gave up trying to get him to say it right and I just smiled when he referred to the coach.
Dad was not a “toucher”.
We know that some people are not.
Without getting too technical, people who study “body language” will tell you that every person has an invisible distance around them that they call a “body bubble.” Some of you might think I am making that up; I’m not.
Some folks have a very small body bubble and they are ok with other people getting in real close. They can comfortably let others touch them and they will reach out and touch others in a comfortable manner.
Others like Dad have a very large body bubble. The invisible distance around Dad was about three or four feet from his body and when you got inside that, he got tense. He just did not like touch.
I recall toward the end of Dad’s life trying to show affection to him. I would try to hug him but he always tensed up. He could not accept the hug and hug back.
Even before his last days [when he was healthy] he could not shake hands with me in a comfortable manner. It was always an awkward shake, stiff and forced.
Did he love me?
Yes he did.
He cared for me. He tried to show me the way to act like a man. He could not tell me what to do. He tried to show me what to do. He was a man of few words.
I disappointed him a bit, because I went the education route and did not develop skills that he deemed practical. Animal care, agriculture, and woodworking were all things that he valued. Sorry folks but I am not a big Cat fan, despite the fact that I hold my last degree from the University of Kentucky [gonna lose some blog readers now]. He just could not understand that.
I was a talker and Dad was not.
Until the last months of his life.
Here comes the regret.
I am a talker and yet when Dad poured out his anxieties and fears to me and anyone who would listen, I did not know how to handle it.
I just could not put the “genie back into the bottle”.
I wanted my strong, silent, man-of-action Dad back and he was gone.
In his final months I had a Dad who would talk a lot and as I reflect back on his last months, he really needed to do that.
All I had to do was listen.
And I failed him.
I lost patience many times when he rambled on.
I was in a quandary. I did not know what to do with this new talkative person but I kept on hugging him. I would bend over him and kiss him on the forehead when I left him. I could see that he was cringing but I did it anyway.
Before I conclude, you might have pity on me. Son faced with a father who was deteriorating right before his eyes, father unable to receive physical touch as a sign of love. Father talking a “blue steak”; son unable to listen.
Sounds like poor communication doesn’t it?
It probably was, but it was what I did and it was what he did.
I longed for my father’s touch, a strong grip, a big bear hug…something to tell me that he was going to be ok and he was not going to leave me. I wanted strong silent Dad back.
He could not give that touch to me and the words kept flowing.
And I could not muster the patience to listen to him.
But I have to admit, that Dad taught me a lesson in his dying months.
Sometimes you have to push your needs to the side and adapt to the needs of the person in front of you, the person you love.
You see I needed a strong Father’s touch, but all he could give me was an endless stream of words.
Dad changed. I didn’t. My earthly Father could not provide what I needed but my Heavenly Father could have.
As I think back on the last days of Dad’s life, what could have been so bad was not. His passing was peaceful. The setting was what he wanted. As I think back on those days I know now that My Heavenly Father had His arms around Dad and me all the time, telling us that it was going to be ok. Showing us that it was going to be ok.
And it was…
I finally got My Father’s touch.