I have read that the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. My dad loves my mom, he calls her "Love", and he has given me and my sisters and my brother the greatest gift.
I don't know a lot of details about my parents' dating relationship, but I do know they grew up on farms in the same county in Iowa and met at junior college and then both went on to Iowa State University. I know that my mom encouraged my dad to take his relationship with Jesus more seriously. I know my dad told my mom first that he loved her and she didn't believe him. I know they were married in 1953 and I came along seven and a half years later, the youngest of four.
As I was growing up I always knew my dad loved my mom. He told her that often and he often grabbed her to kiss her and hug her. They had their disagreements, but they fought to find a resolution. He worked hard to provide for her and our family.
September 6, 2013 my mom had a very severe stroke. Since 6:25pm that day my mom has not been able to speak, walk, or take care of herself. Since that day my dad has stepped into the role of taking care of my mom. While she was in the hospital and nursing home, Dad was with her every single day. He listened to the doctors and nurses, asked questions and advocated for my mom. He had a little notebook where he wrote all sorts of information. He asked such educated questions that a doctor once asked him if he was a doctor. After about five months of recuperating, my mom was able to move back to their home and my dad's love for Mom kicked into a higher gear.
Dad helps Mom get dressed, helps her with the bathroom needs, (he has home health aides come in a couple of times a day to help him) and he fixes meals for them. I've been impressed with the food he has been cooking and baking. He looks up recipes on line and tries them. And like every true cook, he modifies the recipes to his own personal tastes.
Dad is very in tune with Mom. While she is napping, he listens for her to indicate she needs his help. When she calls out, he immediately goes to her to see what she needs. Last January he sent out an email to us kids with a concern about Mom having a headache. (She ended up in the hospital and had medications adjusted.) At first glance of the email, I thought, okay, I'll pray for Mom and the doctors. Then I started thinking.... how did he know she had a headache? She couldn't tell him so. I asked him and he said he could tell she wasn't feeling well and asked her questions until he figured it out. She can nod her head yes and shake it to indicate no. He says he should be able to read her facial expressions after 62 years of marriage!
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained” C.S. Lewis
My dad is constantly looking out for my mom's good. I have never heard him be cross with her even when she is complaining loudly. He just continues to help her and reassure her and call her "Love". He told me during one visit: "She's already been knocked down more pegs than she deserves. I can't knock her down anymore."
Since my mom's stroke, my dad and I have had many wonderful phone conversations. Before the stroke I would usually call and talk to Mom on the phone or Mom would call me. Maybe it's a strain for him, but I think he knows I miss talking to Mom. It's a gift to me. (I have been so preoccupied with all that our recent move to South Carolina has brought that I haven't talked to Dad as much and I miss it.)
In the ICU back on that 2013 September day, he said to Mom, "For better or for worse, in sickness and in health. This is the "worse" part . We've got a new adventure ahead of us, Love."
In last year's Christmas letter, Dad wrote:
"It's the last decade," I said to Verlee, "it will not be the declining decade that it is, but a joyful one when we focus on the mercy of God's grace." Which is huge!
My dad is awesome. He is setting such an amazing example of love and dedication to all of us in the family and to the people he interacts with.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
I believe Dad's faith in Jesus Christ is why he is able to live out his wedding vows of 62 years so incredibly well. His love and compassion are unsurpassed by any person I know. My mom is blessed to be called "Love" by him. My siblings and I are blessed to see Dad love Mom.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.