Thanks to modern medicine and numerous brilliant doctors and surgeons my Daddy is alive and doing well after his open heart surgery he underwent recently. They did a wonderful job repairing the damaged part of his heart even if they don't know why it was literally falling apart. But the why at the time wasn't important to them (or us) when he was rushed to the hospital - we just needed him fixed. But I know the real reason his heart was giving out and to be honest I wouldn't change a thing that led him to needing it fixed. I know that sounds...heartless (sorry, the wording fits) for me to say that so let me explain what I mean by that to you.
Men are funny creatures; the majority of the male population prides itself on being the stronger, tougher, and less passionate of the sexes. From the time of Adam and Eve and the Cro-Magnon era men have clung to the hunter-gatherer persona (some men more than others - you know who you are) and still practically pound their chests when they conquer any task, menial or skilled. Who's to blame them? Not me, it's just entwined within their DNA or something. Personally I don't mind a bit of that in my household...what? It just means that his form of hunting equals going to the local grocery store instead of me and I'm totally cool with that. Okay, it's really because I spend way too much money on crap that we don't need when I set foot in there and he goes by our weekly list. I think I just undermined my likening my husband to a big ole' caveman when I brought up the grocery list. Regardless, I like to think of it as him bringing home his latest kill for me to cook. Wait, I don't cook! Um, I'm going to stop there because I'm questioning my role as the dutiful wife now. Anyway, my point is to say that it has been a part of human nature for the man to keep up a brave front, physical or emotional, in whatever crisis or predicament is at hand while the woman tends to dish out compassion in whichever form fits the situation. However, there are those rare male souls that have somehow muddied the waters of the emotional chasm that has divided the sexes for hundreds of years and my father is listed amongst them.
My father has an immeasurable amount of wonderful qualities but the one that shines the brightest and far outweighs the others is his "emotional well" that never runs dry. I am not exaggerating when I say that he feels every word he speaks or is spoken to him. A simple "hello" from a stranger will remind him of a moment where he first made friends with a long-time friend or at the least how nice people can still be. And when he's telling you about how his favorite basketball team (go Duke!) was down by twelve points at the half and fought their way back for the win, his eyes, turning red-rimmed, tell a story of hard work and perseverance that he admires to his core. The best thing about Daddy telling you anything is the way he tells it and the way he makes you feel it as strongly as he does. Sometimes I can't even look at him when he tells a story because I don't want to cry and let him know that his eyes have betrayed the part of him that's trying to be my strong father...so, I'll mess with my fingernails or look at a non-existent bird flying by so I can remain composed while he finishes telling me about the time he swallowed so much bubblegum that he threw-up and my grandmother called the doctor because she thought the huge wad of gum that came up was his stomach. We both laugh, he at the memory and I at the picture he painted for my minds eye, but my quick glance at his eyes and his smile that's strained because he's choking down that cry-lump one gets right before tears spill, I know his story is filled with a longing to see him mama just one more time because he misses her so. I would like to add that among the top ten qualities that my dad possesses, ranking at the top is his story telling abilities. When he tells you about sneaking his dog into the movie theatre as a young boy, your heart starts racing and you fear you're about to get caught if the dog barks even once! Or the time that his pant legs caught on fire and he panicked and jumped on his bike to ride home to his parents for help all the while just fanning the flames...well, I'll just say that I felt stupid checking my calves for burn marks.
It's a bitter-sweet thing to feel so strongly about everything; being an emotional person is a gift because what the less emotional person enjoys for a moment, someone like my dad takes that moment and ties it or relates it to some part of his life story. The "bitter" element of feeling so deeply is the part that feels the need to help, fix, change or take over an impossible task thinking that your passion will infect others and a change of heart or mind will occur. People like my dad know that not everyone and everything can be fixed but part of him cannot help but think if he tries hard enough, says the right things, pleads to the compassionate part he hopes dwells in others that somehow resolution will manifest. Because I was in my teen-I-don't-give-a-crap stage I wasn't aware of how he was at his job pre-retirement, but if he was anything like he is now, just trying to make his neighborhood better for all by serving on the Board...well, I'm surprised he didn't need that open-heart surgery before June 2014. I'm not going to go into what he's tried to do to bring those people together because that's a whole other blog post, but I will say that he cares about the betterment of the place he wants to live the rest of his life so much so that he has poured everything he has into reaching each individual like they actually care as much as he does (disclaimer, some do and they know who they are). Maybe he thinks that if he cares deeply enough it will cover the "caring deficit" that's plagued too many in his community? No, that's not it. It's that Daddy's passionate about anything he feels affects his family and friends and the minute he took that damn position...it took him.
You see, where most of us have passion righting a wrong that's occurred or about a particular "thing" from time to time, my father has that passion about anything that's touched the life of someone he cares about past or present. When he tells me the struggle, triumph or death of a neighbor or friend unbeknownst to me I leave feeling that I've made a new friend (or enemy...he's too forgiving) or lost someone too soon too. I love that about my dad and I wish I was more like him even if it damaged my heart too.
I hope now you understand why I say I wouldn't change a thing about what happened to Daddy's heart; I can't imagine my father any other way than he is and I truly believe that all of our family and his friends would have empty holes in their hearts if he wasn't constantly filling those holes with pieces of his own. Daddy, you have my heart too so use it anytime you need to!
Interesting facts about Daddy pertaining to this post:
1. Oddly enough, emotional and caring as he is, my dad is a patented mechanical engineer. (If you are an engineer or married to one you'll know what I mean)
2. Although mathematically inclined, he is crazy artistic!
3. He has freakishly strong arms but hugs you like you're a delicate flower.
4. His stories are amazing but he's shy and uncomfortable in large groups (though he hides it well when Mama drags him to a party).
5. He is the most level-headed person in the family even though things affect him the most.
6. He once made a sock-puppet act so real I wanted to cry when it got angry. (So that's not about this post...I don't care, it was awesome)
And the best for last:
7. My Daddy thinks his heart surgery made him more emotional than he already was. Dear Daddy, you just had more to be emotional about these last few weeks and haven't realized that we've all seen the red-rimmed eyes that betray your inner-most feelings. I speak for everyone when I say you affect our lives with your huge heart more than you'll ever know.
I love you Daddy!