As I read the message from my youngest brother, my stomach lurched. “Dad’s in the hospital”. That feeling of dread set in fast, and just as quickly I remind myself -don’t go there till you get there. It could be anything, it could be nothing. They suspect he's had a series of small strokes. He couldn’t remember how to punch his time card at work after 14 years of doing it every day. He also couldn’t perform simple feats that the doctors asked of him, like walking heel to toe. They admitted him to run further tests, cat scans, bloodwork. It will be hours, maybe days before we know anything. So I sit here by the phone in California, my father in a hospital in Texas.
I don’t want to invest in worry, but it feels like I just got punched in the chest. I’ve only had my dad in my life for six and a half years. Is this it? There is so much still unresolved between us, so much I still don’t know about his life, his past. Will I ever have the chance to build the kind of relationship with him that I always hoped for? I think of the thirty-nine years I lived never knowing if he was even alive. I think of the time that slipped by, the many opportunities missed. I think of all the things I still want to say. The conversations we still haven’t had.
But none of this thinking does me any good. What I really want is to pray, and to believe that prayer is real, and maybe it lands upon some sympathetic ear somewhere in the Universe. But I simply don’t know how. I know this sounds terrible coming from a preacher’s daughter. What can I say? I have doubts. I can recite words I was taught as a child, but it never feels right to me. So I write and I hope that this suffices, that my words rise above the ether somehow, or maybe settle in the hearts and minds of those who read it, creating a collective network of good will. I don’t know. All I can do is put it out there and hope.
So this is my prayer for my father. May he be well and whole. May his good heart win out over the abuse he has inflicted upon himself in the past. May his tears and his struggles be behind him. May his golden years be peaceful, surrounding him with family and love. May he even be strong enough to return to preaching at his beloved church, in spite of his self-doubts. May he be well enough to pick up his brushes and once again paint those dramatic passionate scenes of stormy seas and blazing sunsets that are his trademark. May he stick around long enough for us all to have the chance to get it right.
God, if you’re out there and you just happen to stumble upon my blog, I ask you this. If Dad comes knocking on your door anytime soon, can you just toss him back to us like a small fish not ready to be caught yet? Can you let him fatten up on the richness of life that still awaits him here, before you reel him back in?