My Dad is a happy man. He is content and cherishes his memories of a life well lived. He enjoys people, stories, books and good food.

Today when I called to see if I could bring him lunch I was greeted with “hello sweetheart, how are you today?”… a vast difference from the speed and tone with which he used to answer the phone…”HAL RUSSELL!!” For many years I recall feeling like my Dad was too busy and had too many “important” things for me to be calling and interrupting him, but not today.

As I search out ways to embrace adversity and people who embrace adversity, there was much to be learned from my dear Dad today. Sadly, sometimes it takes people a lifetime to figure out what is truly important. Life is hard. There are bills to be paid, mouths to be fed, and memories to be made, but if only there were a way to balance all of it. Perhaps that’s what life is for… to learn. We do our best in each situation, accomplishing what feels urgent. Time softens us, it offers adversity as a tool to effectively peel layers and layers away from our heart that were placed there by life’s misconceptions, expectations and heartache. My Dad is 85, he is in a rehab facility to gain strength and balance in hopes of being able to return home with my Mom without repeatedly falling, and be able to take care of him self.

Having had three children of my own, along with several jobs, lots of friends, and the obsessive desire for a clean house, I have passed up many opportunities to sit with my Dad. Today was a gift, it was just he and I. A rare moment when nothing else mattered and I was completely present and aware of every word that was said and every emotion that was felt. Why is it that spending time with loved ones is often placed last on our list of things to do?

I sat on the edge of my Dad’s bed and as I began to tell him of my concern for my children, he reached over with his great big hand and held my hand, and I cried.

I then listened to my Dad tell me about meeting my Mother. He talked about how they were in a road show together at the church, how my mom was only 15 at the time and he was 19. After the road show ended they took a drive in his car and the way he described my Mother was like this…”she sat way over there and I was clear over here, you could have fit two people between us, she was an ice box”… hahaha! (I had to chuckle as I pictured a 15 year old taking a ride with a 19 year old for the first time… of course she was an ice box) The ride lasted until 2:00 am. Upon taking my Mother home the two were greeted by her Mom singing “Three o’clock in The Morning by Paul Whiteman”. Apparently my Grandmother really liked my Dad, I don’t EVER recall being greeted in such a cheerful way when arriving home at 2:00 am with a boy.

At the age of 16 my Mother desperately wanted to get married. My Mother and Dad had two close couple friends who were in a similar situation as them, being that all three men were going into the navy and were moving to San Diego to do so. Late one night they all decided to drive to Elko Nevada to get married before the men had to report for their 12-week boot camp. Upon arriving in Elko early in the morning, my dad went into a service station and was told that due to Columbus Day all the courthouses were closed. The man told my Dad of a few other options but my Dad chose to keep that information to himself, as he didn’t feel it was such a great idea to marry my Mother in Elko, Nevada without my Moms parents knowing.

My Dad talked about finishing up boot camp and coming home to marry my mom. She being 16 and him 20. Their friends Paul and Dorothy were married December 15th, my parents married December 16th and Jay and Annabelle on the 17th of December. After the wedding my Dad returned to San Diego to report to duty and my Grandfather drove my Mom to San Diego to be with my Dad. (That was the last time my mom saw her father … he died at the age of 40 from a heart attack).

My dad told me about the small store across the street from their home in San Diego, where Poncho, the jolly man with a big belly, who owned the place, allowed them to run up a tab to get food, that would eventually be paid off when their parents came to visit.

I love my Dad. I’m saddened I haven’t taken more time with him. My dad has always had a large frame and very large hands. His frame is still large but his presence is smaller, his muscles and skin are tired. His smile is from ear to ear and he has a space in his front teeth that sets his smile apart from others. My Dad’s hands are still large, but a little less intimidating in their fragile but sturdy state. I recall their enormous and intimidating size as a child and holding hands wasn’t something we did, but today holding my Dad’s hand was a treasured gift. As I looked at his hands I pondered over the many things those hands have done, far too much to imagine really, but some of the things I recall are the many pages those fingers have turned… while he was reading and driving thousands of miles. (Thank you, Father in Heaven, for always returning my Dad home safely) The many meals those hands have prepared, the dishes they’ve washed (even the ones I refused to wash) and their ability to catch me and tip me upside down in the dirty dishwater, as promised, for challenging my Dad and his ability to catch me. Of late, those hands love to make artisan bread, in fact, my Dad is teaching others at the rehab center to make garlic, asiago and rosemary bread tomorrow.

As I was visiting my dad his home teachers came, I thanked them for taking such good care of my folks. As they left I thought to myself, “what great people, would I go visit a neighbor in a rehab center if I was assigned to be their home teacher, maybe, but probably not.” I was reminded of my Dads passion and diligence in doing his home teaching. All of my life my Dad has thoroughly enjoyed his roll as a home teacher. He would interrupt nearly anything to make sure he was on time and visited “his families” on a regular basis. Of course he would be blessed with this gift in his old age… what we give away always comes back.

The only belongings my Dad has in his room at the rehab center are a few pair of pants and shirts, two books, and a small bag of oranges…yet he was happy.

As Dad and I ate our firehouse subs my dad said, “this sandwich has a lot of vegetables on it, I love vegetables”. As he ate the orange I peeled for him he asked where I had gotten it and said it was the juiciest orange he had ever eaten and then as we visited and I gave him an Andes Mint from my pocket he said “oh bless you”, and he completely enjoyed that little square of chocolate.

Perhaps getting to the end of your life isn’t so bad if you’ve learned to enjoy the little things. The things that truly matter, like time with those you love, memories of cherished moments, and a savory meal now and then.

Perhaps the frantic pace we all keep to earn another dollar, acquire another possession, impress another person, or prove to ourselves that we are enough, isn’t really what matters after all.

Thank you Dad, for the very priceless and beautiful gift you’ve given me today… time, memories, and the comfort of a shared meal with someone I love.