My Father Falls

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s recently. In one way, it’s a devastation, as any diagnosis of a degenerative disease.

falling_manIn another way, it made sense of the past few years. My dad’s suffered a number of setbacks-heart surgery, double knee replacement complicated by MRSA. OK, so only two, but big ones. He’s continued to decline-his pace and walking were problematic, an arm refused to work properly, his thinking was obscured at times, and his speech was failing.

The Parkinson’s diagnosis was, then, a relief-we knew what was happening, and it wasn’t just a slow decline, inevitable. It was a devastation, but perhaps not an insurmountable one.

He found a great doc, one who is aggressive in treatment and demanding of his patients-great for my stubborn, determined dad. Physical therapy-he’s walking better than he has in years. Speech therapy-he’s tracking better and easier to talk to than in years. Exercises at home. New rhythms of life.

And yet…he’s my father. The jack of all trades who could do anything. The one who never let anything get in the way of providing for his family. The one who, yes, hurt me in many ways. Yet not with intent to harm. Always with the desire to love.

And what I’ve come to realize is that I was a bad son. One who was distant and distracted, disconnected. With reason, perhaps-my counselor says I came by it honestly-but a bad son. One who did not sacrifice for his father.

But what hope I have is that I was not a good son, but perhaps I can now be the son I never was. The years are lost, but Jesus promises to restore all that is lost. Nothing is beyond His redemption.

I had to watch my father fall and wrote the following. This was before the diagnosis, yet it rings true. And I hope it might be of him, of me.

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My father falls
A slow motion shot
neither of moments nor minutes
nor days
yet years

Tottering steps-
difficult risings-
physical slowing-

And I, who once looked
and knew
I could never live
even to aspire
to be his son-

No joy in his reduction-
sole sorrow-

I can only live
to aspire
to be his son,

Keep fearful vigil,
long for the grace
of hopeful hands
To catch, hold
-the forced embrace-
I have yearned
Secretly-
So he,
Silently-

As I now know:
Him my youth’s colossus-
My manhood’s icon-
lived aspiring-

Steps measured confident, certain-
A sacrifice,
To be my father.