I believe in soap scum.
My father was a very quiet man, who with a ninth grade education, was able to become quite successful. Later in his life he was diagnosed with late stage esophageal cancer. A lifetime of bad habits and probably a lot of denial led to this unthinkable diagnosis. We all knew his time with us was limited.
A private man with a lot of pain, my father didn’t reach out very often. He certainly didn’t share his hopes, dreams or even memories with many. I had once presented him with a journal asking him to share his life story with me. I was hoping to gain some insight into the man he was and have a precious gift to share with my children someday. The thought of sharing part of himself was so painful he never participated in the journal. He told my mother he thought we would judge him – instead of admire his great strength and humanity.
In his final months I was living across the country and was at a loss as to how to connect with him. I began to send him care packages letting him know I was thinking of him. I wrote him a letter saying I wasn’t interested in talking to him about life and death. He would know I was thinking of him if we simply talked about the weather, the kids, the mundane. Just to hear his voice was comforting.
I’ll never forget the day the phone rang. It was him. He asked how the weather was. I had never talked to him on the telephone for this long. We had a long discussion about the best way to get soap scum off shower doors. I gave him some of what worked for me. He said he would try some of my ideas and get back to me.
The next week he called again. The sprays I recommended were not working on his shower doors. So we talked longer about what the exact brands were, how I applied them and what his shower doors looked like.
These conversations continued until he was no longer strong enough to speak. I am so very grateful for the gift of these conversations. I know it was his way of reaching out to me.
When he passed I was devastated, but our conversations gave me the gift of closure — and eventually peace. I am truly thankful for our chats about nothing. And most of all I am thankful for soap scum.
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