BY MIKE PERRY
I was not with my father the morning of his passing. I wish I had been. But my being there would have made little difference. He was weak and frail and emphysema had slowly robbed him of his breath. I would not have been able to save him. It was just time for him to go.
My Dad called me on my 46th Birthday. Three days later he was gone. The last thing I said to him, and he to me, was, “I love you.” I’m thankful for that. But I realize not everyone has been blessed with the opportunity to say these final words. Despite this, when speaking of him to others, I often say, “I wish I had one more hour with him. Not to somehow pull him back from deaths doorstep, but to speak to him of things left unspoken. I have thought often of this and wondered, how many of us have longed for the same thing. For our long-dead father to suddenly be standing there in your doorway. For the doorbell to ring. You walk apprehensively to the door, wondering who in the world could be ringing your doorbell at this hour. A little annoyed because it is interrupting the football game on TV. You open the door and there he is. Would he look tall and strong as a young man, or would it be frail and weak, unable to catch his breath? Would it matter? What would you say to him? What would be your first thought? Your first reaction; shock, disbelief? Would you shout in delight, fling open the door wide and hug him with all your might? Would tears come? Or would you be overwhelmed by a mixture of awe and mystery? One thing is for sure, the football game would be immediately gone from your mind.
Of course, you would say to him, “I love you Dad.” “I’ve missed you.” Then he looks at you says, “I love you too.” “But I’m here now, so what did you want to tell me?” Perhaps the tears, the awe, the mystery, the words, would all come in a rush. Your mind and thoughts suddenly on overload. Until finally you slow down long enough to really consider what you want to say. So what would you say? What words would come to express how you felt about him or what you have longed to say but never got the chance?
Perhaps you would begin by telling him about his grandson and the man he has become. How proud you are of him. How proud he would be of him. How you are often amazed at how he can adapt and figure things out. “Just like you used to Dad!” No longer the little boy, but a grown man with a family of his own. How you hope that you have been and will be that kind of grandfather and father he was.
You tell him how sorry you are that you were not with him the morning he died. To bid him farewell one last time. To hold his hand and touch his face just as he did for you the day of your birth. To offer words of prayer and encouragement to help him on his way.
You want him to know how much you regret not having lingered with him a little longer on the front porch of his home. How you wish you could redo those times when you were in a hurry to leave because of this stupid reason or that stupid reason. You could have stayed and chatted with him a little longer.
You tell him that for you, the words Dad and home mean the same thing. That home was always where he was. Despite your travels, you knew that he was just a telephone call, or a drive, a flight away. That despite the stresses of your work and personal life, you could always find him sitting on his front porch waiting and watching patiently for your return. You’d sit with him there and chat about the weather, or politics or some other equally minuscule and unimportant thing. How he would listen quietly and occasionally offer a comment or bit of advice.
But mostly you’re sorry you never really told him of painful things in your life. The stresses and doubts about your career in law enforcement. The horrible things you experienced as a cop. How you grew cold and unfeeling. A cynical uncaring robot is unable to feel or empathize with the pain of others. Your fear that the job was slowly robbing you of your humanity and with it your family. How demons come sometimes at night to taint you. You fitfully toss and turn until the morning light signals the start of another day. You don’t tell him about the emotional distance that has developed between you and your spouse. How every day you fear it will be your last as a family. You don’t tell him about the depression and despair that has taken over your very soul. You don’t tell him because you think he would think less of you. That you would be a disappointment to him. That you are not being the man you should be or expected to be. That he would stand up and with disgust in his voice say, “What the hell’s wrong with you boy?” But you know now that he would have done and said none of those things. You regret that you robbed him of the opportunity to have listened quietly until you were finished. And then simply said, “I love you son.” “Whatever happens or you decide to do I am on your side.” You are so sorry that you thought so little of him to have not trusted him with your pain. You want him to know that you deeply regret not giving him the opportunity to express his unconditional love to you.
He looks at you for a few moments and then says, “I knew all those things already son. You didn’t need to tell me. That’s why I always waited patiently for your return. There was nothing you could have said or done to have caused me to love you less.”
Your vision becomes blurry as you tear-filled eyes look at him with awe. You sit there with him quietly until finally, he says, “Son, I have to go. The hour is up.” You beg and plead with him to stay. You tell him the world is so much better with him in it. Perhaps at that moment, as he bids you farewell and the door quietly closes behind him, you fall to your knees and ask God for one more hour!