In January, with just six months left (though we didn’t know it at the time), conversations with Mom were about love and fear and the future. Not Mom’s future; she worried not about her own eternal fate – that was secured by her faith in Jesus, firmly established over the previous two years. Instead, her heart was heavy with thoughts of how Daddy (her true love of 56 years) and I (their only child) would manage without her. We shared that fear.
Lying in the hospital bed with Mom, I promised her that Dad and I would hold each other up whenever the time came. She was brave, I tried to be, and I promised her we would be as we moved forward.
An idea came to mind and it took hold…when she returned home we would start a new routine of me coming by their house for coffee each day before work. The benefit would be two-fold: first, by laying eyes on her before going to work each day, I could be more “present” when I got to the office, knowing exactly how she was doing that morning. The second benefit: establishing a routine that included my dad as much as Mom. I always was Daddy’s “princess,” but the relationship between Mom and me was so tightly wound that others could really only watch from the outside. That had to change and it was time for Daddy and me to really get to know each other on our own, without Mom as the intermediary. We had to start laying the foundation for a new future together.
They say it takes three weeks to form a habit. Nearly every day for the next four months, I stopped by for coffee and a short visit with my folks. Often, Mom wasn’t up to much talking, but she loved the ritual and enthusiastically welcomed her “care bear.”
Something really special happened during those four months. A stronger connection grew between Daddy and me. And it was right before Mom’s eyes. We didn’t talk about it, but I like to think that the greatest gift we gave Mom at the end was proving to her, and to ourselves, that we were taking care of each other and would continue to do so as things progressed.
Now, out of the crack in my breaking heart, something new and beautiful is sprouting…a rich and fulfilling relationship between father and daughter. I see this man in a whole new light. As I have told Mom several times in my mind: “I get it…I see why you loved him so much, for so long.” During our morning visits, Dad and I talk about current events, history, politics, his grandsons, my job, and the number of steps our FitBits registered the previous day. I have learned what classes he enjoyed in high school (history and auto shop) and other things he loved in high school, too (pitching pennies and sneaking a smoke). We talk about our pain, although not a lot – it’s hard. But we share the pain and that’s enough. And we shared a great love for a great woman. And now, more than ever, we share a very special new friendship that is all our own.
I like to think Mom is smiling down each morning on “Coffee with Dad.”