I’ve written of my dad before, but it’s been awhile. To sum up, my dad is in later stages of Alzheimers disease. At times, I’m still in disbelief, even though it’s been evident for almost a decade. This last weekend Sam and I took my dad and sister down a stretch of the North Santiam river. For my dad, it was his second year in a row he’s rafted this same stretch with us. Last year he sat upright and even grabbed a paddle and tried to help. Regardless of the direction he was paddling, it was still an attempt. This year, not so much.
Recently I’ve begun a project with a friend doing monthly “talks” at a pub. Our “show” is called Trail Tales: A Conversation with Inspiring Community Members. The point is to engage with individuals from our community that are experts or exceptional…mmmm not sure what descriptors work best here…in the outdoor industry. However, the reason we choose our guests is for their outstanding involvement in the community. Their achievements as humans. While it would be impossible to interview my dad (he barely talks at this point) I think he’d qualify. Note: perhaps I’m not objective but isn’t that how a daughter should view her dad?
I can’t actually say my dad was ever an exceptional athlete. But he’d try anything. He did the occasional whitewater rafting and also kayaked a class III section of the Owyhee, with basically no experience, following the lines and instructions his experienced friends told him. He was a runner (ran the Boston marathon three times) and later a triathlete. In his youth he was a football player (and played in the band, which led to funny stories he’d tell us of playing at half-time in his band uniform). What stands out in my mind was his involvement with community and his generosity to his friends, family and strangers.
I remember when his best friend became tragically ill with a brain tumor. The final month of the man’s life was very much a struggle, and his petite wife was challenged to meet his basic needs (Bob was a tall man therefore caring for his basic functions while essentially dying at home was unbelievably tough for her). Eventually my dad stepped in to give her breaks. He helped in all the ways a person must when helping someone who lacks the ability to take care of their own needs…bodily functions, bathing, etc. I can’t imagine it was easy for my dad, but he took it in stride and with love. Cruelly ironic with the situation as it is now–the dynamic is not lost on me when I help.
When putting together a legal plan for my mom and dad after his diagnosis, we sought the help of a local attorney who knew and had worked with my dad. He was a lawyer in Salem for most of his life…well liked and respected. It was only when we visited this particular attorney did we learn of his career-long compassion. She wouldn’t allow us to pay her because she “couldn’t in good faith charge us…your dad helped so many people for little or no fee”.
I find myself wondering, when I write these posts, what my point is. What’s the message? In a writing class I’d be criticized for rambling and not having a clear intro, middle and end to these “stories”. Maybe that’s why I enjoy the blog format so much—YOU don’t have to read them and I’m not being graded…haha! My point with this particular post? Well two-fold: One, I’ve been writing and talking with people recently about the importance of community and helping one another out. We’re all paddling this canoe together. I believe my dad exemplified this well. Two, I love and respect my dad for being an incredible human and I realize the older I get, we haven’t all been as fortunate. I’m grateful, and if you feel that way too about your dad, give him a call today. Or email. Or text. Whatever works for you, but let him know you care.
Thanks for listening….