My father is visiting for nine days – “a short visit,” he calls it. He’s right – his visits the last two years have stretched for 12 days each. I love my father, but when you live by yourself, 12 days with anyone in the house would be a challenge.
My father and I look alike, but we are cut from different cloth. A former engineer, he is meticulous, careful, conservative, patient, diligent. For even the smallest project, he must have a plan. This frustrates me: I’m more of an impatient, think-about-it-briefly-and-hope-for-the-best kind of girl. Yesterday, in the middle of a yard project on its second day, I noted that we are both perfectionists, but I’m trying hard to snap out of it.
We are at the opposite ends of the spectrum of belief when it comes to religion, politics, and most any cultural or social topic you could mention. Yet my father and I have had very little conflict during our 51-year association, mostly because he is willing to accept me as I am and to let me make my own choices. If he has disagreed – and how could he not – he has usually kept it to himself.
This was such a refreshing change from my mother’s unceasing efforts to control and mold me that over the years I have forgiven him many things. He can try my patience – we operate at completely different speeds – but he’s a kind, sweet, honest man who worked hard, lived his life by the rules, tithed to his church, loved his family, and remained faithfully married to my mother for 61 years, a span of time that saw many different shades of “better” and “worse.”
He helped his divorced daughter buy a house. He works with me in the yard, fixes my electronics and putters around that house when I am at work. He is lonely since my mom died, and he is far away. I am not nearly as good a daughter as he deserves. So during this week before Father’s Day, I have tried, imperfectly, to be more like him: patient, kind, giving. I have let him plan, although perhaps not gracefully. I marvel at his health, his endurance, his strength, his resilience. He is not a perfect human being, but he’s a remarkable one.