Never Having to Bring a Casserole
Each morning that I was employed as a HUD Service Coordinator for a senior housing complex, Miss Sylvia, my favorite resident, would stop for a visit.
One day after Miss Sylvia settled in an easy chair in my office, she said, “Tom, may I tell you something? Someone once told me never to get old. And I didn’t listen. I’m telling you in hopes that you’ll be a better listener than me.”
I shared the story with my family and friends but soon forgot the conversation. That was until events in my life began to bring me back to that day and Miss Sylvia’s words.
On August 11th 2002 my Mother passed away. Dad died of a broken heart merely 15 months later.
Only then did Miss Sylvia’s simple but profound words flood back to my mind . . . “Don’t ever grow old.” Those words brought with them a real dose of reality.
No longer would I be able to say to my sons, “Go ask Grandpa.” No longer was I the son, my sons the grandsons and their children, the great-grandchildren. It all changed – I was getting older and I had, through the natural course, become the patriarch of my family. I verdantly rejected the role for a time.
In many areas of my life I’d taken on the persona of Peter Pan, refusing to grow up. The kids loved that – “You’re fun Dad. We’re going to grow up together – forever!”
My father was always there to serve alone as the pillar of guidance and wisdom in our family. In retrospect I liked it that way. But now, being the eldest son at 51, I would ascend to Patriarch.
Dad enjoyed sharing the stories of his youth and adulthood. Darn it, his death moved me from the audience to the storytelling stage. What stories did I have to share?
At the moment of my father’s death I had become the “Older Generation” – the “Wise Papa.” Forget that! I didn’t want the responsibility. I was dealing with my own sense of being an orphan and playing that role with great flare, thank you!
But as the days and weeks went by, I began my royal pilgrimage to assume the figurative and mystical throne of the “Patriarch.”
Oh it was a beautiful thing. Phone calls seeking my advice, nieces and nephews asking me to recount stories of when they were toddlers and invitations to attend every celebration of life, and I didn’t even have to bring a casserole if I didn’t want to!
In the early mornings after my father’s death, I would sit on the old porch swing, sipping on a cup of hot coffee, and thinking. What words of wisdom could I share?
And then in the hush of the morning it clicked! Dad never shared a word of wisdom. It was through his actions that we learned. Dad’s wisdom was found in his gentle nature and kind, calming words. He was Holy! Dad the storyteller shared words of simple love for family, country and God. He demonstrated his love for family each time we entered his presence and received his hug and kiss, even when I was 51! His humor was always appropriate because he never defamed anyone in order to get a laugh. It was clear now, Peter Pan – when I grow up I want to be just like my dad.
Miss Sylvia, I publicly apologize for not listening. It seems possible Miss Sylvia, that we’ll never know the impact we have made until we are old!