This week's writing prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "opportunity." Today is also Father's Day, so I'm going to tell you about an opportunity that became a precious memory...
Early in 2009 my Dad hatched a plan to travel south from where he lived in Dakota, to visit me in Texas. I hadn't been home to see him for some time, and it had been even longer since he'd seen my son who lives in Tennessee or my daughter who lives in San Antonio. Dad, even though in his early 80's, still loved going on trips more than anything. And so we made a plan to all meet up in San Antonio in late October, when the weather would be cooler there, but still good for travelling on his end. He would come, along with his girlfriend, my son would fly in, and my husband and I would drive down from Odessa. It would be a weekend to remember.
As the time for our family reunion approached complications set in, my daughter's marriage was in the midst of turmoil and it didn't seem like a good time for them to have company. I talked to Dad and suggested maybe we postpone his visit for a bit, but being the
As is common these days, Dad's plane flight out of Dakota was delayed, causing them to miss their connecting flight from Minneapolis to San Antonio. It looked like they would be stuck in Minneapolis overnight, but managed to get on a late flight, arriving weary but happy very late in the evening, without their luggage... which was still sitting in Minneapolis and took another 24 hours to retrieve.
Dad was in the late stages of congestive heart failure... breathing and walking were very difficult for him, though he stubbornly refused until the very end of his life to use oxygen full-time, only keeping it by the bedside to use at night. My daughter rented a wheelchair which at first he grumbled about, but ended up really liking as it enabled him to get about easily, with one of us providing the push power.
We had a wonderful time together, laughing, eating, and telling stories. My daughter and then son-in-law took us all to a very nice Brazilian Steakhouse, and once Dad caught on to the concept of continual servings by using little "flash cards", he had a blast and ate more at that meal than any of the rest of us, even though his appetite at home was usually poor!
We took a cruise boat down the river, and toured the Alamo with my husband serving as tour guide. Dad loved history. The next day we all went to Sea World, as there is nothing Dad enjoyed more than animals, zoos and such. He had a marvelous time, enjoying every exhibit and show, and smiling throughout.
One memory we still laugh about is when John and I were driving Dad and his girlfriend to my daughter's house. As we pulled into their driveway our GPS said "You have arrived at Shallah and Jason's house". Dad was immediately super-impressed and said "How did it know that?" He didn't realize that we had pre-programmed their address into the GPS and was wondering if maybe it was smart enough to know who lived at each address! I could sense that one would soon be on his Christmas wish list.
On our final day together, before we had to head back home for work on Monday, we had lunch at my daughter's house, serving Dad's requested favorites... "grilled brats and beer", with cheesecake for dessert. He loved it! We think of him now every time we sit down to a supper of brats and beer.
As the weekend came to a close, my daughter sent the photos from our respective cameras and phones off to the CVS photo shop and had them printed for him to take along home. He was so delighted with how fast this could be done and that he could share the highlights of the trip with his friends.
After warm goodbyes, I departed with awesome memories but a heavy heart, knowing that this would likely be the last time I would see him. We all knew his time on earth was short. What we didn't know was just how short it would be. The phone call from my sister came just two months later - on December 30th, telling me that Dad had died.
I did not have the opportunity to see my Mother before she died. I had wanted to go home and visit her for more than two years, but money for the trip was never available. My heart still hurts over that. I am ever so grateful that when the opportunity presented itself for all of us to get together with Dad we didn't pass it up. He had done a lot of visiting family members that year, and I think deep down he knew it was important to have these last goodbyes. Everyone of us had a wonderful time and will hold the memories of this last weekend with Dad in our hearts forever. I thank God for that! The above picture of Dad was taken that weekend, I treasure it.
The message of this story is this... don't wait for the opportunity to come along, make it happen now, while you can! Don't wait to spend time with your loved ones, don't wait to tell then how much you love them... do it now! And when an opportunity presents itself in your life... seize it! You may never have that chance again.
Note: Stop over at Sunday Scribblings and read some great posts on the theme of opportunity, and stay tuned here for my Monday Memories post coming up tomorrow... it will be another story about my Dad. Better yet, why don't you join us at Monday Memories and share a memory of your own?