I met my chosen parents (Ann & Charlie) probably 20 or 21 years ago at a church retreat. I remember Charlie was wearing a red sweat suit and he reminded me a bit of jolly old St. Nick – complete with white whiskers and the “bowl full of jelly” belly.
Over the years I got to know both of these wonderful people, and when my ex and I got married 17 years ago I asked them to be my chosen parents and take part in the wedding ceremony. They agreed, and from that point on we were family.
Dad was soft-spoken – and I often had to exert extra energy to hear what he was saying. When he was happy you knew it, he would talk louder and use words like “delightful.”
Dad worked as a counselor who specialized in working with folks with drug, alcohol, and anger issues (and in many cases all of the above). He had worked in a half-way house for a number of years before I ever knew him, and I often found it difficult to believe that this short, soft-spoken, gentle man could scare the crap out of of ex-felons. These were men considerably larger than he, but around dad, there was a respect given that few had the privilege to see.
Dad was a great lover of music, studied voice, and was a member of the Bach Society Choir here in St. Louis. Mom and dad were great lovers of opera – traveling to Iowa for weeks of opera almost annually to watch one performance after another. I, on the other hand, love everything from rap to Classical, with the exception of opera. One day I got a phone call from dad saying that he had gotten all of us tickets to a “musical.” I love musicals and was expecting Oklahoma or the like – instead he had tricked me into seeing an opera. And while there is no denying the incredible vocal talents of operatic singers, I must admit that I am still not a fan. He had tried – and with a smile and a wink 🙂
Dad died three years ago today (Dec 28th), just 3 days after Christmas. It was completely unexpected. I did get to the hospital in time to see him before he died (although he wasn’t awake at all during that time). When he went mom was holding one hand and I was holding the other, and many of his friends were standing there around the room holding on to each other.
I think a lot about dad this Christmas Season, and know that his presence in my life – all as an adult – gave me a peaceful look at life, and helped me to trust again.
Peace be with you, dad, until I see you again.