My dad passed away in 2004 and he had probably been sick for 6-7 years prior to that with Cushings Disease, diabetes and what we later learned to be lung cancer. My dad was a prideful man. We only learned bits and pieces of his illness because he had sworn his doctors to secrecy. In fact, I only learned of his cancer diagnosis on the day he was removed from life support when the chaplain said a prayer with me but that's a story for another day.
This particular day was a bright sunny day during the summer months when my kids were young. We were getting ready to list our home and had been needing to stain the back deck for some time. My husband and I both worked full time jobs so finding the time to complete odd jobs around the house wasn't easy.
So this particular day we awoke early and gathered all of our supplies to get the back deck stained. We were on a deadline to get the house listed so this deck had to get stained TODAY!! We had just started on the staining of the deck when I heard a car pull into the driveway. Strange - I thought. I wasn't expecting anyone today because, you know, we were busy staining the back deck. And noone had called to say they needed to stop by because - again - I would have told them we were busy staining the back deck.
Not wanting to stop with my mission of getting this deck stained, I hollered "around back" to whomever had pulled in thinking it was most likely a delivery person and we could get this done rather quickly so I could get back to the task at hand.
I looked up just in time to see two individuals turning the corner of my house. It was my mom and dad. Now my first thought should have been how odd it was for them to show up unannounced but I was so busy concentrating on that deck that I didn't give it another thought.
In fact, I didn't think at all. I just went with my first instinct which was frustration over the fact that they didn't call first AND I was staining a deck! I didn't stop what I was doing. Nope. If they didn't have the decency to call first and let me know they were coming over, then I certainly wasn't going to stop what I was doing and have a visit with them.
And I told them that (told ya I wasn't thinking at all). I told them I was extremely busy staining this deck and had absolutely no time to visit with them. A simple phone call would have saved them a trip. I told them it was probably best to go back home and we could make a time to visit later.
But they didn't go home. Nope. My dad grabbed a few chairs from his car and plopped them down right in front of that deck. And there they sat. Watching us stain the back deck.
I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I was furious in that moment. How could they have no respect for MY TIME on the ONLY DAY I had available to stain this back deck? I didn't have time to visit with them. In fact, they were disruptive to my routine.
But none of that mattered to them. And so they stayed. And watched us for an entire afternoon as we stained the back deck. And I fumed under my breath for this extreme inconvenience to my time.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, besides the OBVIOUS reason of admitting what a selfish idiot I could be in my younger days (not gonna lie - still struggle sometimes).
I am sharing this with you because I believe it was in that moment that my father first realized that he was going to die. And all he wanted to do was spend some time with his daughter and his grandchildren.
But my father was prideful, remember? He couldn't share that information with me because in his eyes that would make him look weak. He also did not want to chance being told no to the visit had he called ahead to let me know he wanted to come over.
So he just drove over. And watched me stain a deck.
I am reminded of that day so many times in my life. All my dad wanted was a few moments with his family. But I was too busy to allow that to happen. I guess it was a good thing he was so stubborn because those moments he stole from my day have now become one of my most cherished (yet painful) memories.
I would give anything right now to have him sit in his lawn chair and watch me do anything. Stain a deck. Do the laundry. Clean the yard. I wouldn't care. I had no idea in that moment how much that day would come to mean to me.
Since his death, I have had to deal with a lot of emotions and grief was only the beginning. The regret and anger filled my head so hard that I felt my head was going to explode. I felt such sadness remembering that day for so long because I was selfish. And childish. And I was only thinking about me and never once considered what my dad was feeling. Or thinking.
In that moment, he knew his days were numbered. He was facing his own mortality and he hadn't even turned 59 yet.
I still get emotional when I think about that day and although it gets easier as time goes by, I still cannot stop the regret that often fills my head.
The world would not have come to an end if I had chosen to stop what I was doing and take the time to visit with my dad. He was dealing with a lot of emotions during that time and maybe this was a release from reality for him for just a little bit.
It is never easy dealing with loved ones and it can be especially difficult to deal with parents. My dad never wanted to show that he was weak. He always needed to be the man in control. He didn't share his emotions very well but in that one moment when he grabbed his lawn chair and just watched us work, I think - in his way - he was letting me know he cared. He wanted me to know that he was vested in me even in the smallest events.
It was never about watching me stain the deck. He just wanted to spend time with me. Would I have reacted differently had I known at the time that he was dying? Probably. And that's exactly why he didn't tell me. My dad always said "don't bring me flowers when I'm dead if you didn't bring them when I was alive". I think he had the same philosophy on this occasion as well.
Life is short.
We never know what day will be our last.
Love with your full heart.
Live with no regret!
And when someone pulls up a chair to watch you work, take the time to understand that it was never about staining the deck!