With father's day around the corner I've been thinking more about home (northern Indiana). My dad has always been a "people person", and when I was young (a teenager) I'd get embarrassed over some things he would do and say. Now that I'm an adult myself (and over my silly childish ways-?), I can see why people liked him so much (and still do)...and how he's had a gift for showing others compassion.
When I was about ten years old, my dad decided it would be nice for our family to visit his last surviving aunt and uncle. I had not met these relatives before and was excited about meeting my Grandma's sister (my paternal grandmother passed away before I was even thought of). Ahead of time, dad prepared me and my siblings for the fact that our great uncle had suffered a stroke and couldn't speak.
My great uncle answered the front door with an enormous smile on his face (I think he used a walker...I'm not real sure how he opened the door--?). I could tell there was a lot he wanted to say but couldn't. I was a shy girl and recall dad encouraging me (along with my siblings) to shake our uncle's hand and say hello...what our names were...etc. I need to admit that I was in awe of my great aunt (she shared my first name), so she's the one I gravitated towards during the visit. As time wore on, the conversation unintentionally shifted to where we were talking with our aunt, excluding my great uncle. A sobbing sound caused all of us to stop talking. My great uncle was trying his best to "talk", and was shaking with tears streaming down his face. In that awkward moment I remember thinking, "What do we do?"
My dad knew what to do...he went over to my great uncle's chair, knelt down beside him so he could hold his hand, and began reminiscing about the "old days" ("do you remember when you gave us a ride in your new car when I was a kid? Played a prank on so & so..."). I don't remember everything my dad said, of course, I just remember what he did.
If I can only remember that it's not what you say in life....it's what you do....I think I will have finally found the secret of being a good friend (and a good mom too). Hey...that rhymed. :)