I’d like to tell you that Aegis Care Advisors was a long time in the making, and was rolled out with strategic military precision, but if I did, I would be lying. We took a somewhat circuitous route to get to this spot, and as often is the case in life, we are guided by the meanderings of personal experience. So I feel like now is probably a good time to share a little something about my Dad. He is 88, and has Alzheimer’s disease.
My Twitter feed lights up with purple these days, as the ENDALZ logo pops up minute after minute, recounting the celebrity appearances for a popular event meant to raise funds to fight Alzheimer’s disease. If I were a more healthy-minded person, I would be excited and proud of the people toiling over this effort, but I struggle to cheer this on, since I am still angry. We have been victimized by this thief, and our family has felt the chronic helplessness of being forced to stand by while our Dad is stolen from us — little by little — no matter how tightly we try to hold him in our grasp. Along with his intellect, a lifetime of professional knowledge in the field of textile chemistry, and his fatherly wisdom, the thief has stolen my Dad’s story. And over time, as the stealthy stalker was making away with golden pieces of treasure that is my Dad, I was ignoring my own weak promptings to gather in the nuggets of my parents’ earlier lives, and I failed to do important things like ask how he felt when he asked Mom for their first date, or how he managed to get himself to South Bend alone at the age of 18 to pursue his Masters’ Degree in Chemistry at Notre Dame. Now, like the lover rushing to intercept the train at the platform, my heart sinks as I feel the crushing weight of regret that I have arrived too late.
We do have the well-worn stories that we yearned to hear told and retold over the years, like the turbulent time when brain cancer took Dad’s youngest brother, our would-be uncle Jimmy, at the age of 11, whose last days were spent in a hospital room with a singular, dismal view of a building bearing an advertisement for a coffin company. Or the time when Dad, in the days when young children were allowed to be adventurers, benevolently spruced up a neighbor’s car with a fresh coat of paint after coming across a can and brush found in their garage–doing so with the bright-eyed, whimsical earnestness of the 4 year old artist eager to present a lovingly crafted gift. But now these stories are like bulky pixels that make us want to rush to focus and readjust the picture into crisper clarity. We are desperate to bring into view the rich, brilliant colors and detail of the rest of the story, but the thief has craftily and irreparably scrambled the settings to do this.
Now we feel cheated. And violated. And afraid.
So we push ahead in our helplessness, and offset our heavy hearts with a larger counterweight of gratitude for this father, son, husband, friend, and disciple. We remember how Dad was–the coach, the advisor, the business man, the prayer giant. The guy who let you know that faith in God, honesty, integrity, and strength of character were paramount. The guy who was always in your corner. But today, I think maybe Dad is telling us his greater story more eloquently now than ever. No day goes by without Dad’s kindness and gentle, loving spirit shining through–a flash revealing the authentic man. The wide and warm smile, the willingness to chuckle and be playful remains while Dad continues his valiant quest to somehow convey to us the drama unfolding, yet locked, inside his brilliant mind. His gestures and words are strung together to form a language that we struggle to make sense of much of the time, but he speaks a language today that outshines and outperforms any form of conventional wording. He beams with recognition and love when we walk in to greet him, with an expression that is unfailingly joyful, hopeful, grateful, and unconditional, but the greatest expression of this must be witnessed first-hand when Mom comes in after short respite times, as the love Dad has for her, the mother of their seven children, and wife of 64 years, defies any form of written description. Underneath all of this, you cannot miss the relentless desire my Dad has to continue to share. He wants to share his moments with others, with us–he wants to just “be with.”
Dad was always one to advise us and encourage us to take on as many challenges as we could withstand and recognize opportunities in front of us. So hopefully that’s what we are doing now–sharing what we have with whomever might find what we say and do to be valuable. In the end, we are all here to need each other.
So Dad, thank you. You have revealed that you are the opportunity in front of us–our opportunity to share back, reassure you with our presence and care; and in this way, your life is perhaps even more eminently valuable now than it ever has been. And — you continue to be brilliant, for in this way, you have managed to foil, outsmart and outmaneuver your thief.