My dad lived to 90 and I'm so grateful that he was healthy and strong for most of that time. He was my biggest fan and greatest supporter and I still miss him so much, even after 17 years.
When I think about my dad it isn't what he taught me or what he did for me or what he bought me that comes to mind, it's the love he gave me.
Toward the end of his life I was visiting him in Toledo. He was in independent living by that time. I was there on Saturday and when I went back the next morning he told me he hadn't slept all night because of the men who were there writing on the walls.
"Really?" I said.
"Yes, look..." and he pointed high up on the walls. "See the writing?"
There was no writing. When I told him that, he became agitated.
"Why can't you see it?" he asked me, clearly puzzled. "It's right there."
Well, that scared the crap out of me, even though he seemed fine otherwise, and so I took him to the emergency room. As we waited for the doctor he sat on a bed and and I stood by his side, and we were chatting when all of a sudden he said, "Oh look at him go!" and pointed down the hall.
"What are you looking at?" I asked.
"That little boy on the tricycle there. Look! Look at him go!"
There was only the hospital personnel in their green scrubs.
Later, the doctor told me this is called "sundowning," a deceptively sweet-sounding term for when your mind is deteriorating and playing cruel tricks on you.
As we waited that day I held my dad's hand and I said, "Daddy, do you know how much I love you?" and he said, "However much that is, I love you a hundred times more."
That was the present my father gave me, the vastness of his love.You're never too old to revel in that, no matter how long they've been gone.
My father was a good, kind man and I miss his smile and the look in his eyes when he saw me, and that memory warms my heart every day.