Today my dad is 74 years young! He served in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years as a combat engineer, master jumper, airborne ranger. I remember when we were stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, going to the big open fields and sitting on the bleachers watching my dad and all the other dads of friends jumping from airplanes. I remember how we had to move every two to three years to follow him around the country, before cell phones and social media allowed you to stay in touch with your friends. I also remember how whenever we got to a new place, he always searched for a new church for us to go to. I was raised Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod and it was important to my dad to “keep our heritage” and find a church that was LCMS to attend. Sometimes that mean driving 25 minutes to a tiny church in DeRidder, LA that was more of a double wide trailer than a church. Vacations were spent driving home to Michigan to see our extended families. Driving from North Carolina….I still remember those long days in the car.
My parents now live in a suburb of Houston, Texas. My dad has changed drastically from the Army Colonel I grew up with. A series of small strokes over a decade ago and perhaps some dementia as well has creeped in and taken away his short term memory, some of his long term memories, his sight is now impaired, he searches for words quite often and he is unable to read, drive, bowl, or participate actively in a lot of what life offers. He spends his days watching the news on TV and talking short walks around the block. He can be found on the sidelines of his grandson’s soccer field when he has games and will often go on errands with my brother, Craig. He is so quiet…he has been robbed of the ability to follow a lot of conversations, although if you get him talking about something that interests him….or a memory of when we was younger, he will talk and talk…although pausing often to look for the word that eludes him. He has outlived his dad and grandfather by nearly 20 years now, so we don’t really know if what he has is something they would have had. My mom has to have a lot of patience getting him through his days now. Reminding him to eat…where things are and what they look like when he can’t find them. When they travel, it is really hard, as he is out of his environment and pretty much lost the whole time. I am hoping that I will be able to see them both again soon. COVID has really done a number on those who would like to see loved ones but have to travel long distances to do so.
This is a picture of my dad today, in Texas, opening his birthday gifts. I hope he understands what a treasure he is to our family.