|Daddy and me in the backyard|
My parents were part of a group of about 6 couples. All had married around 1949, stayed married, raised their families in the same place they grew up themselves. My Dad met one guy when they were 5 years old; others he met when they worked at a factory. The men were loud and a little goofy at times.
Their culinary adventures rarely extended beyond meat and potatoes or Italian food (my Dad was a notable exception to that rule). We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, weddings and baptisms with them all. With the exception of one couple closer to my age, in my fifties I still refer to them as “Mr. and Mrs.” rather than their first names. They’re still the grownups.
When my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in the fall of 2004, this group became even closer. They were still loud and goofy, but different. They would continue to meet for lunch, but also kept him company during chemo. They were there for him, in that nonverbal way men have of expressing love.
We finally brought in hospice in June, and my mother started calling his friends. The first ones were there in an hour, and the rest showed up over the next couple days. By then my Dad was in a hospital bed in the living room, barely able to communicate, in and out of consciousness. In short, not the man they’d known for 50, 60 or even 70 years. It was hard on them; so hard one man took one look at him and walked back out. He couldn’t take it: the most outrageous man in the bunch broke down on the front porch.
My Dad was the first one in their group to die, and it was hard on them. But I will always remember how they made sure that the time they spent with my Dad was as normal as possible. They didn’t abandon him or treat him with kid gloves. They laughed and argued and told stories, just as they had for decades.
So, I share this because it’s Father’s Day weekend, and yesterday was the 6th anniversary of my father’s death. When I talked to my mother last night, she said she’d gotten a call from one couple who called from their vacation to tell her they were thinking of her. Those are the kinds of friends everyone wants to have.
I wish those kinds of friends for you.