I have to admit that caring for Danny since his stroke – being his primary care-giver in fact – is not easy. I think caring for anyone, especially an aging or challenged parent, must be difficult. And those of you who know my father may agree that, at least in some ways, Danny makes it harder.
But the other day I was teaching one of my leadership classes, and I was reminding people to look for the positives, any positives, at least one positive, in the people they felt challenged by. And I decided to give myself the same advice, and to remind myself of – and list here – at least a few of the things I appreciate about Danny, from now and from the past. So here you go:
- He was fun – Danny was not the serious father. Never. He liked to play, and to play with us. He questioned authority and allowed us to color outside the lines, paint his kitchen floor yellow with squiggly blue designs, play in the snow without snow boots, and roll down hills until we felt nauseous. He kept us out of school for a month when life fell apart; he tickled us with his beard and took us for rides on his motorcycle; he held our hands for balance as we walked on high fences and crossed “Crazy Street” – Astor Place in New York City, where you had to pretend to be someone else or life would get crazy and you’d be swung around in many directions. We’d pretend to change our names, and he still swung us around in many directions.
- He always welcomed more – Danny would host Christmas for our family…and anyone and everyone else who needed or wanted a place to go. There was always room for one more (or two more), even when there wasn’t. I’ve noticed people who, when hosting, stop their invites when they’ve run out of space at the table. Or chairs in the room. Not Danny. From his approach I’ve learned to invite, to entertain, to welcome, and I believe to make people feel welcomed.
- He pushes through his pain – I can’t even imagine how hard it is for Danny to get around. He’s half- paralyzed – has little use of his left side of his body – and he lost his right eye in the stroke as well. Yet he keeps going. And he shows up for my kids when it’s something important. For my daughter’s graduation he, understandably, insisted on attending. I, understandably, insisted on his using a wheelchair, so that we could more easily get him into the auditorium. He agreed, albeit begrudgingly. He hates being in a wheelchair; he hates being identified as a “cripple” (his words); he hates asking for or needing help. But he would do anything to be there for my daughter, and he did.
- He loves me – I wouldn’t have said this years ago, but I sometimes now realize that Danny loves me. He hides it well at times, and I deny it well at times, but it is true. He really loves me. He wore the scarves I knit him when I first learned to knit – even though they were barely long enough to wrap once around his neck. He let us buy and heat and eat a TV dinner when we first moved in with him – even though he warned us that it was disgusting and we would hate it. (He was right.) He came to visit me on his one day off every week when my son was born – so that he could hold my son and I could sleep. He was the only person to do that for me. Every week. He still tries to buy my children presents that are different and meaningful – even though he can’t shop by himself and has no idea what to get them.
When I look hard I can see that Danny loves me. And when I look hard, or remember hard, I am flooded with things about him, and about his being my father, that I love and appreciate. Why is it that we forget these things on a more daily basis? Why is it easier, sometimes, to see what isn’t good? And how do we let them both, them all, be true?