Jun

17

 There are many great blessings in my life that have made me the man I am today. One of the greatest is the example that my father gave to me of how to be a man, a husband and a father.

My dad have had our ups and downs, but never has he ever broken from the example of manhood that he taught me. Let me share with you some of the greatest things he did.

First, he showed me through his example how a husband shows respect and loves his wife. My dad was 19 when he found out that his fiancée was pregnant. There are many things that a 19-year-old can do in that situation. But he choose to stand by my mother. They were genuinely in love (and anyway, as I've jokingly told my dad, "where else would a goofy looking guy like you go to find a hotty like mom!"). He dropped out of school and began his life as a family man, providing for us in the best way that he could and treating my mother with the love and respect that she deserved.

Then in 1979 my mother, merely 34 years old, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The prognosis from the doctors was bleak. Early onset MS (in 1979) did not afford much of a life expectancy and certainly meant a bleak future for my mother. Mom, realizing that dad was still a young man with a full life ahead of him, did not want him to have to suffer with all that was going to happen to her. She told my dad that she wanted a divorce so that he could have a full life with a wife that wasn't going to have body that was falling apart.

My father, knowing the bleak future that lay ahead, stood by my mother. Regardless of what lay ahead, he was in love with my mother. Furthermore, he had a made a promise to her. Part of that promise was, "in sickness or in health, till death do us part." My father taught me the importance of honor and integrity not just with his words, but with his actions.

I didn't learn about that story until years later. But I recount it here with great pride. My father is a man of honor! But being honorable is easy when things are easy. What did my father do when things got rough (and man oh man, did they ever get rough)?

Mom went down hill quickly, but dad stood by her side and she fought back until the MS went into remission. Then, with the encouragement of the love of her life, she decided to use this adversity and turn it into an opportunity. She went to college. She graduated with her associates degree with straight A's. My father encouraged her to study and not worry about things as he took care of earning the money and did a lot of the housework. She then earned her bachelors degree with straight A's, save one B in Algebra. All the while dad took care of his work and much of hers plus having to care for her extra needs. She then went on to get her masters degree, and she didn't just get any masters degree. She got accepted into one of the most prestigious universities in world, Washington University in St. Louis. She graduated with straight A's!

Sure, mom did the work, but I credit my father with her degree, too (as did mom). She needed someone who would love her and encourage her and help her and take care of her extra needs.

My father stood by her side and loved her, encouraged her and did whatever he could to help her along the way. Sure, there were problems and difficulties along the way and an argument or two here and there. But what an example my father set for me.

After she graduated, mom went to work and dad had to drive her everywhere she wanted to go as she had mostly lost her ability to drive safely.

Then one day it happened. Mom slipped and fell at work. This was the catalyst that brought the MS fully out of remission. The ravaging of her body began. Everything they feared would happen to her 19 years earlier began to happen with a vengeance. Her body began to shut down.

She lost her ability to walk. So dad pushed her around in a wheel chair. Then she lost her ability to dress and put on make up. So dad dressed her and put on her make up. Then she lost her ability to even get out of bed. So dad got her up and put her down whenever she needed, and on top of that, he took her almost everywhere he went.

Then she lost her ability to control bodily functions. But still, dad took care of her. He cleaned and bathed her. He washed her hair and did his best to comb it and style it and then put on her make up.

Then she lost he ability to swallow. So dad fed her through a tube. But that was the easy part. You see, since she couldn't swallow, she would choke on her saliva. Dad would have to suction out her mouth several times an hour to prevent her from choking, which she did quit often. But that still wasn't the hardest part. Mom couldn't swallow. So she would wake up choking every 30 - 45 minutes. Dad would wake up and suction out her mouth, reposition her so she wouldn't get bed sores, and then go back to sleep until mom woke him choking again 30 minutes or so later.

My father would not put my mother in a nursing home. No one was going to give the love of his life the care that he could and would give. Even as his health faded he took care of mom. There were times that he looked like a walking zombie, but still, he persevered. And he did this for 5 years!

He taught me through his actions never to give up, to honor your word, and to do the right thing, not just when it was easy, but when it was the hardest! That is the true sign of a man! But that was the hardest thing he ever did.

On May 5th, 2004, in the morning, he called me on my cell. I was out of town. He told me that I needed to get home, that mom wasn't well. He told me that he was wanting to bring in hospice to help with mom and that he wanted me and my brother to be in on the decision. Basically, by bringing in hospice they would help, but that also meant that we had to sign a Do Not Resuscitate form. By this time mom was not only a complete physical vegetable, but her mind was 95% gone too.

I cancelled my remaining appointments for the day and came home. My dad, brother, and I were meeting with the hospice nurse as she was doing an exam on mom. We could all see that mom was in really bad shape. We asked the nurse what did she think, and she told us that hospice really wouldn't be necessary as mom was likely going to die within a few hours. She told us to call anyone that we needed to call.

We got on the phone and called my grandmother (mom's mom), her brothers and sisters, my dad's sisters and some other close family. Everyone who was in town came to the house.

We all stood around the bed with her. My dad sitting at her side, stroking her face, the grandkids on the bed sitting next to her, holding her hand, stroking her face, or with their hands on her legs. Her mom sat at the foot of the bed rubbing mom's feet. This sight overwhelmed me as I stood there watching. My mother was surrounded by love, the women who gave birth to her trying to warm and massage her feet, her loving grandkids at her side as well as her two sons.

As she lay there she began to struggle to breathe, her breath became gasps, but still she held on.

Then my dad, who had given me example after example of how a man, a father and a husband acts, gave me the greatest lesson ever. He leaned into my mom's ear, holding back the tears and gasps. He said, "It's OK, Sharon. You can let it go now. Just wait for me and I'll be with you soon. It's OK to go, I love you, it's OK to let go!" Then my daughter leaned in and said the same thing, as did others in the room, including her mom.

And then, like you think you'd see in a movie, my mom just seemed to relax. She stopped gasping and her breathing slowed and got shallower. My dad leaned down and said something in her ear. And then she just stopped breathing.

As much as my dad loved my mother, she loved him back just as much! She wanted to live passionately, but she knew that she was at the end of what her body could take and was living strictly on the power of her indomitable will. Still, because of that, she suffered immensely. I believe that my father released her with his words and gave her permission to let the pain stop, even though that meant losing the love of his life and his entire existence for years.

So why am I telling you all this story of my mom on Fathers Day? This story really isn't about my mom.

This story is subtitled, "The greatest work you will ever do is within the walls of your own home".

You see, I could tell you all about how my dad coached us in little league to championship after championship and the life lessons he taught me by coaching me, or the lessons he taught me by working any and all jobs to support his family when he was laid off from work, or how I was never hungry or cold, or how I had a largely worry-free childhood. I could tell you about the lessons he instilled in me by taking me fishing and hunting, or how he sent me to private school that he really couldn't afford to get me out of the public system that we were otherwise stuck in.

I could also tell you about how this story has a happy ending. You see, my mom always insisted that when she died that she wanted dad to get remarried to a wonderful women who could give him everything that she couldn't and to enjoy the rest of his life with. Dad found that women when he married Patty. I jokingly tell my dad that he's won the wife lottery twice in his life! He's found two great women that love him dearly and treat him wonderfully!

Sure, there are all kinds of good lessons with many market analogies that I could tie in. But what I want to drive home is this simple lesson: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or, if you want a more secular version: What goes around comes around!

My father taught me through his actions how to be a man, how to be a father and how to be a husband. He may not be a bigwig to the rest of the world; he may not have achieved great financial success, and he is certainly not "world renowned" at anything.

But he did do the most important things. He raised me to be a good man by giving me a great example. He did his greatest work within the walls of his home! So I honor him with this little prayer that I say all the time:

I pray that I may be the man my father never was so that my children can be the man I will never be!

And just in case this makes the Daily Speculations site, I would like to publicly state for all the world to hear:

Thank you Dad, for giving me that foundation to build on! Thanks for all you've done. Thanks for all you do! You're a great man! I am honored to be your son!


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