My father Mike is an expert at making people feel special.
When my sister Michelle was a teenager and slept over at a friend’s home, my father would bring doughnuts early the next morning. This served the dual purpose of bringing some glazed good cheer to her friend’s family and making sure his daughter was where she said she was going to be. It became a tradition that my sister lovingly tolerated and her friends and their families loved. This is just one example of my father’s thoughtfulness.
I grew up in a home built on the foundation of my mother and father’s belief that love is not a feeling, but a series of actions. We all said, “I love you,” to one another everyday. But we were always encouraged to give that love dimension by showing those that we love how we love them through a kind word, a thoughtful deed or wildly exuberant spectacle of whimsical love in action.
In the last few months my father has been waging a valiant struggle against throat cancer. He never smoked a day in his life, but he is not bitter. His tongue and was removed and he cannot swallow. For a man who loved to eat and talk, this has been a great trial. I believe that the only thing that has kept him from justifiable bitterness has been his continued kindness even in the intensive care unit. No matter what has been happening, he has always made it a priority to show others that he cares about them.
My sister and I were celebrating the birthday of one of Michelle’s childhood friends. Megan, the birthday girl, asked if my sister and her other friends at the party remembered, “Mike and his doughnuts” and they all laughed. For the next few minutes they all exchanged “doughnut stories” about my dad. Megan even said, “There’s a part of me that kind of expects him to be there tomorrow morning at my front door with a pink box full of glazed old-fashioneds.” Then she raised her glass and toasted to my father’s health.
I got up to use the restroom and who did I see, but my father, looking for our party with a pink doughnut box in his hand. He mouthed to me, “Where are you guys?” and I lead him over to the table. This was only the second or third time he had left the house by himself since he had left the hospital two months before. On the box he had written, “Happy Birthday, Megan!”
When Megan saw my father, she shot up from her chair and began weeping. “You’re here! You didn’t forget! I was just telling them!” as tears streamed down her face, and my sister’s face, and the faces of her other friends, and my face.
My father’s illness has given our family the chance to both put love into action and receive love gladly from our friends. This is what I believe. Love is not a sensation, but an act.