Fathers and Others

It’s been an eventful weekend for me.

I spent the last three days caring for my brother as he recovers from surgery — or at least that was the plan. He ended up spending a bit longer in the hospital than expected, so my care-giving was redefined. While he was under the watchful eye of doctors and nurses, I cared for his home.

Cleaning House

My brother lives out in the country, about 40 miles away from us. So after I packed my bag, I did what any loving sister would do: I took a trip to Trader Joe’s! I bought some of our favorite snacks and some ingredients to prepare a few healthy meals for him. But when his hospital visit was extended, I decided to stay and enjoy this time alone as a bit of respite for myself.

Yesterday I cleaned his house from top to bottom, and even rearranged his living room to make better use of his space. (With his permission, of course.) In between vacuuming and dusting, I took frequent breaks to sit outside on the patio, swinging on the swing and listening to the birds. It was so peaceful!

In reality, my mind and body both benefitted from the cleaning. And the house looks pretty good too.

Stepping Into the Gap

We lost our father while we were both in our 20’s. It was a horrible blow, especially to Mom. But we clung together for support, and leaned on each other for strength over the years. My brother has been by our mother’s side for over 33 years, stepping in and taking care of what needed to be done. This was especially important when I moved to Virginia.

In so many ways, he took on my dad’s role. He helped with household repairs, financial decisions, and simple day-to-day tasks. And he never complained. Not once. And decades later, he packed up all their belongings and moved Mom closer to us so we could continue to support one another as her health declined.

While my brother is not a father himself, he became father-like in his role. I can never thank him enough. And if our mom had her memory back again, even for one brief moment, I know she would thank him too.

God blessed me with an earthly father, and I miss him so much today. But He also blessed me with a caring big brother to watch over our family when Dad was called home to heaven. Today I am grateful for both.

Happy Father’s Day!

Lessons from the Beach

One of the earliest memories I have as a child is walking barefoot on the beach with my dad. We lived in a house beside the ocean, so we walked along the shore nearly every day in the summer. Sometimes I held his hand; other times he gave me a piggyback ride, especially when my legs got tired on the walk back home.

My father always loved the ocean, so living in Ocean Bluff must have been a dream come true. Of course it was only natural he would expect his kids to love the ocean too. My mom, on the other hand, preferred sunbathing and wading — anything to keep her hair from getting wet.

Standing below my childhood home in Ocean Bluff, MA (2017)

I’m sure one of my parents’ greatest concerns was making sure their kids could swim. With waves crashing just a few feet below our patio, the fear of drowning was very real. I was probably around 7 years old when my brother and I were signed up for Red Cross swimming lessons held at a neighboring beach. We rode our bikes to the early morning lessons after school let out for the summer. I remember how cold that water was, and how my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering all the way home. I just jumped in the water and did what I was told figuring that was the quickest way I could get out and get warm again!

I’m not sure what those lessons accomplished, but I didn’t learn to swim. I think I got the basics of treading water, but that was about it. I also remember going to a summer camp that had an indoor pool, the first one I had ever seen. I was always the only kid in the shallow end, watching the other kids jumping and splashing around in the deep end. I didn’t learn to swim there either.

My cousins had an in-ground pool in their back yard. One Fourth of July we drove over there for a family gathering. I think my dad secretly hoped this would be  the day I would finally learn to swim. I watched him with envy as he dove off the diving board again and again. He made it look so easy! He kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it, but he didn’t pressure me.

I was tired of clinging to the edge. I remember slowly walking out onto that diving board, taking a deep breath, and jumping off.

I was terrified, but knowing my dad was watching me and was close by gave me the courage I needed to take that leap. And even though I got water up my nose, I didn’t drown. I bobbed to the surface and felt such a rush of excitement. I did it! I absolutely loved it and spent the rest of that day diving into the pool.

I knew swimming in the ocean would be different, but now I had the skills — and confidence — I needed to swim in deeper water. My dad taught me how to float, dive under the waves, body surf and snorkel. After that, I pretty much lived in the ocean every summer until we moved away.

To this day, even though I live far away from my childhood home, the ocean is my still happy place. It makes me think of my dad and the amazing times we shared together.

Just like my Heavenly Father, I will always love him for giving me the courage to leap, and for staying close enough to rescue me if I fall below the surface.