Dad, My Teacher

Another Father’s Day has come and gone. For those of us with older dads, the global pandemic again altered the way we celebrate big days in order to protect them from getting sick.

Father’s Day 2020 had a little extra significance for me. My father is just days away from moving into Memory Care. This transition almost happened back in March — we were hours away from moving him there when the lockdowns started to happen. The last several months have been challenging for him and my mother, including a lot of rough, emotional days. Our entire family is thankful that our home health aide was able to be there for both of them to help keep them sane and safe.

My wife, son and I decided to make the hour-long drive to spend just a few moments with Dad through the screen door on the porch (affectionately referred to as his Man Cave). We ended up dodging some unforecasted raindrops. Conversations with Dad these days are pretty short, he has trouble remembering who I am without cues from Mom. He read the card we brought him, getting my wife and kids names right, but calling me by my brother’s name. Not a surprise — most people can’t read my signature anyway.

He doesn’t know that he is about to be moved out to the Memory Care facility in a matter of days. This is a tactic advised by the experts we have been working with to ease trauma and suffering, and simplify the transition. I know it is the right approach, but there’s part of me that feels like we are deceiving him. The buildup to this transition has created a lot of well-intended discussion about how to support both he and Mom. The distorted buzz of communication created a lot of noise between my ears — painting a picture of the situation that was more dire than it is. For me, the inner critic had me questioning my own intentions, leading to feeling like I wasn’t serving my family well by not responding to every word.

So, how do I be a light here? My inner critic is trying to protect me (as it was designed to do) by making me think I had to do more to somehow be worthy of love and acceptance. Leave it to my Dad, to teach me yet again.

Dad stood up, with the help of his walker, and we had a conversation through the screen door. I ran my usual play. I gave the updates on all of us, careful not asking him to remember any details so as not to create stress. He was happy to hear we were all busy, happy and healthy. For a few moments, I saw my Dad’s heart come through, which I haven’t felt for sometime. He had that sparkle in his eye, which was his way of communicating how proud he was of all of us. I could tell it was time to go. After I said my goodbye, he responded with:

“Thank you for spending the time with me.”


It was a lot more than these simple words. I saw inside, and his eyes communicated so much more. I saw he was at ease. Almost like we was trying to say, “Son, I know how much you care, but I’m going to be fine. Don’t worry about me.” I told him I loved him, and we left shortly thereafter.

Dad tought me, yet again, that simply just showing up and caring is enough. My drive home was much different than I expected — rather than being sad that it was the beginning of the end of Dad’s life, I was encouraged that no matter what he’s going to be fine. He knows I love him, and I know he loves me. More than enough.

I love you, Dad. Thank you for being my teacher.

Copyright © 2018 – 2023 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Published by Brian Hackerson

My personal philosophy is to be a light.

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