I don't do this, much, but I've been poking around in my old photos ... I have about 20,000 of them on my computer ... and I happened across some stuff I wanted to write about. Also, it just occurred to me this is Fathers' Day Weekend, and since I'm the biggest daddy's boy there's ever been, this seems a good time.
First, that's Dad and Mom in the photo up there. The picture is something over 40 years old, but it's pretty much how I remember them.
The first episode I want to pass along to you young'uns is something that happened many years later, when our older son walked down the aisle to get his High School Diploma;. He'd gotten his certificate of completion in February that year, so he could start work March 1 (1979) with the Pelham Fire Department. And, by the way, he's still there.
What I recall so vividly is the pride that I felt about him. Sure, I know that raising children is mostly praying that they'll turn out all right anyway, and that God was behind how he turned out, but knowing he was already driving a fire truck made me want to pop some buttons.
Now... in the midst of that, I was brought up short by the fact that I'd probably made my Mom and Dad feel just as good in June, 1956. And THAT was incredibly gratifying .. that my folks had been happy with me.
The same thing was repeated three years later when our younger son Brad graduated.
Mark it down .. when your kids do something that does you proud, you're going to feel incredibly grateful that you just might have made your mom and dad feel pretty good, too.
Aside from making them happy they hadn't sent me back when I was born, one other thing I did, that I'm most grateful that I did, was to have a chat with them when they were retired, living in a Condominium in Clearwater, Florida. It was early 1983, and I was there on business. The thought had occurred to me that, should one of them die, it was unlikely that the survivor would want to stay there in Florida, so I asked them that. What would they do were they to lose their spouse?
Both said they wouldn't want to stay there; they'd want to be near family. Hmmmm ... that was either my brother on Long Island, or us here in Pelham. They both said they'd want to live here, rather than New York. SO .. I challenged them to think about making that move right away, so that when one of them lost their spouse, they wouldn't simultaneously lose their home, their church, and their friends.
A week later they called and said they'd put the condo on the market, and would be here in two days to find an apartment. And they did; they found an brand new, ideal place about 5 minutes away, and lived with us for a few months while the apartment was being finished.
It turned out to have been a good thing for them to do. When Dad had a stroke, I was able to be there, and when he passed away 10 days later, Mom couldn't bear to be in their apartment again. So she lived with us for about 8 years, until she needed constant attention, at which point she moved to an assisted living center nearby. And, she felt right at home here and still had her friends and her Sunday School Class, and her pastor.
She died something over a year later, of an abdominal aneurysm; the last thing she said was .. in response to the nurse telling her that Peg and I were on our way .. was "Oh, good".
Mark it down .. honoring your Mother and Father pays dividends that will last the rest of your life.
I also stumbled across a couple of church bulletins and programs. One is dated 1/8/84, and announces that Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Cleveland are the newest members of FBC Pelham. Another is from a Cantata we did in the mid-80's; on it, in Dad's handwriting, is "Bob's the only one who does not use music".
Now I am not at all saying that's an admirable thing to do. It was just easier for me to remember the music so I didn't have to hold the book up for an hour. I mean, I had a sore tendon in my elbow and I had good reason (pain) to play the music in my car until I remembered it. But the point is, Dad apparently felt pretty good about his youngest kid, and that's more gratifying than I could ever possibly describe.
While Mom lived with us, she presented the sorts of problems that one can expect as they age. I'm thankful for a wife who was extremely understanding, and saw one of her duties to God, as being that of helping her husband ... me ... honor his Mother. So when the little spats arose, she always understood. And, thankfully, I was able to communicate to Mom that what she did or said to Peg, she did or said to me, too. Something about the two becoming one flesh.
I spent a lot of time thinking about a couple things. One was that, as she aged, she had more and more problems driving. Running into things, and other related misadventures. So we talked about that quite a bit, in a casual let's-think-this-over sort of way. Ditto for her needs for care and attention, too (Dad had always said that neither one of them EVER wanted to go to a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Center).
Those conversations paid off twice, in a big way. First, I was sitting in her bedroom chatting .. she lived with us at the time .. and she said she was really nervous about driving again (this happened after a few weeks recovering from a broken hip). I told her there really wasn't any good reason for her to drive again, as Peg and I both had jobs that were flexible, and we'd be happy to knock off anytime and take her wherever she wanted to go. She brightened up immediately and said she probably shouldn't drive again, and I said I thought she'd made a wise decision.
She then said "If I give you my driver's license, will you cut it up for me?". I said yes; she did, and I did. She mentioned several times later that she was so happy she'd done that.
Then there was the day that she said "I've come to the conclusion that I need more care than you and Peg can really give". I said again, I agreed with her conclusion, whereupon she said "I don't want to go to a nursing home or an assisted living place". Well, I'd providentially heard of a brand new ALC being built a couple miles away, so I called the lady who was building it and mentioned Mom to her. She .. Becky .. stopped by the next Saturday and had a nice chat with Mom, who then enthustiasically wanted to live at Maplewood Lane, Becky's newly opened center. And she lived there about a year before a series of events that landed her in a Nursing Home .. one she liked .. where she eventually died a bit over a year later.
Now I'm surely no hero. I didn't do anything but what I thought was best for my Mother and Father, in accordance with the light God shone this way. But in recounting the aforementioned things, I've reminded myself anew that:
- God tells us to honor our Mother and Father, and He means it.
- When He tells us something like that, He also enables us to do it.
- Honoring your Mother and Father seems to bring blessings beyond just the long life promised in "commandment #5".
- Use your head, be mindful of your parents, do all in your power to honor them, and some day .. like me .. you'll be darn glad you did.
And oh ... Dad ... if you're aware what's happening down here ... and the parable of Lazarus and the rich man may at least hint at that ....
Happy Father's Day!