The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

I went hiking today with friends. It was a beautiful day and we hiked for about 5 miles around Rogie Falls. As I savored the scenery I was once again reminded of how happy I am to be here. And, today being Father's Day, I was reminded of my dad. Without him, I wouldn't be here.

I remember when I first met my dad in 1995. I spent 4 days with him at his home in California. We talked about everything under the sun, trying to make up for 34 lost years. He had not seen me since I was 4 years old. It was sometime during those 4 days that he told me I was and always had been a beneficiary in his will. I asked him why he would do that, knowing what I had been raised to believe about him. His answer was simple, "You're my daughter." We talked about why he made the decision to sign the adoption papers after my mother died and how difficult that was for him, knowing that it meant he would probably never see my brother and me again. At one point I was telling him about my childhood and how loved I had been. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked "So I made the right decision?" Almost 30 years after the fact he needed me to tell him that it was OK. "Yeah, Dad, you made the right decision."

My dad and I had 12 years together. I remember the adventure of buying a Father's Day card for the first time. Most of them didn't apply.'Thanks for teaching me how to ride a bike, even though you were so busy','Thanks for all the things you did for me growing up, even though I was an ungrateful brat most of the time', 'Thanks for not killing me when I crashed the car at 16'. We just didn't have that kind of history together. What we did have was the knowledge of how lucky we were to have reconnected after so many years apart.

As the years went by and it got more and more difficult for Dad to take of himself and the house I tried to convince him to sell the house and come to Arizona. I knew he would never be happy living in someone else's house but my backyard was huge and we could build a small guesthouse where he would be just a few steps away but still have his own space. He would always say it was a good idea but eventually I came to realize that he would never do it. He was stubbornly independent. Even after his stroke, some 20 years earlier, he was determined to regain his independence. The doctors told him he would not be able to return to his own home. The house had too many stairs. He spent the next 2 years in a rehab center, then at his brother's house and finally at his girlfriend's house, all the while learning to walk again. The day he finally got rid of the walker he called a taxi to take him home. The doctors were right, he couldn't walk up and down the for the first year he crawled up and down them. He learned to take care of himself again and had another 20 years in the house that he had built with his own two hands. That was my dad and as I came to know him I realized that I had to accept his decision to stay in his own home, no matter how difficult it became for him. He was a grown man and had been making his own decisions since long before I came along.

Dad got sick and ended up in the hospital in July of 2007. The doctors and Adult Social Services finally convinced him that he would not be able to continue living on his own. It was time to sell the house and make other arrangements. It was time to let go of his independence and I think that's when he decided that he was done with this life. My dad died on August 11 of that year. Life on his own terms all the way to the end.

I miss my dad every day and I will be forever grateful to him for making it possible for me to have this new life in this magnificent country. More than that, though, I am grateful for the 12 years we had together. I wish we could have had more.

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