Reflections on Father’s Day
for the bravest man I know, my dad: Larry Thompson
I’ve been trying to put together the right formulation of thoughts on the screen to capture my emotions this morning as I reflect on my life’s journey with my father. I feel as though he deserves more than a “Happy Father’s Day” especially lately. My father has always been the silent rock that has held our family together. When people think of our family they immediately think of my mom: her loud, outspoken Italian character. In our family, my dad is always somewhere in the background: reading the newspaper on the porch, taking care of the family finances, cooking breakfast for 13 people, grocery shopping, etc, etc. To my memory, he has never willingly taken the spotlight and he has gladly stepped back into the shadow of my mom and her vibrant personality. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been influential.
When all the other teenage girls were badmouthing their fathers, I was spending quiet evenings on the porch with my dad talking about politics and the injustice of the world. I was a mini version of my mom, and my dad, often in those quiet moments, reminded me the importance of not letting my emotions or irrational thinking overtake me. I was able to reflect rationally and logically because of my dad. I’m not saying I was perfect at this, but when I found myself losing control I would try and think of how my dad would react. I can honestly say that without him, my own sanity would not be what it is. I am half my father, and luckily so. Even in my darkest moments of irrational behavior or self-deprecation, I am able to pull myself out of the rabbit hole because of the constant love and support my dad has given me during my lifetime. When I think of the one person that never stopped believing in me: it’s my dad. When I think of the one person that never gave up on my mom: it’s my dad. When I think of the one person who was willing to sit in the shadow of another, to happily watch her beauty and light shine on the world (even sometimes at his own expense): it is my dad.
But now our family’s silent rock is not so silent. My dad has had to, begrudgingly I’m sure, step out of the shadows of our family and into the light. And these lights haven’t been pleasant. On March 26, a harsh florescent light hit my dad with so much force that it knocked him over. It knocked us all over. My mom’s stroke has shifted the balance of our family. We are all trying to adjust to our new reality with our post-stroke mom. But what I find remarkable and inspiring is that my dad was able to get back up, despite the blinding light, despite not being able to see the road two feet ahead. No, two INCHES ahead. How many questions has my dad answered (or not been able to answer) in the last three months? How many silent moments holding my mother’s hand while she was in ICU? How many lifts onto the toilet? How many opening of containers of food, lifting of forks, wiping of mouth, bending of stiff fingers? How many sleepless hours, lying in bed, missing his wife, wondering “what next?”
Sometimes at night I lie in bed and I think about my dad, laying in bed thinking about all the things that my dad must not be able to stop thinking about. I often catch myself in moments of self-pity about what has happened. No longer can I just give Jo to my mom for a week and have a “break” from being a mother. Now my weekends are spent visiting my mom instead of hanging out with friends in State College. I’ve missed festivals and shows and concerts and parties. But nothing compares to what my dad has to think about and sacrifice every single day. His new reality is making the best decisions he can for his disabled wife. The woman that made all the decisions (good or bad) for the family. I know how incredibly hard this is for him — because we are very similar. My dad and I would rather sit in the shadows and watch our loved ones shine than take that light for ourselves. We give up decision-making power to others because the task is just a little too daunting, even though we are capable (whether we believe it or not) of making good decisions for ourselves and for others. We want peace and harmony and balance in our lives. We want routine. I want to wake up Sunday morning at my parents’ knowing my mom will be blasting Beatle Brunch on the radio and my dad will be cooking breakfast. I want to know that the peanut ring in the front yard will always be filled so that the squirrels and the blue jays have something to fight over. I want to know that the pool temperature has to be at least 82 degrees for my mom to get in happily. I want to know my mom is going to give me advice on my life, whether I want it or not. I want to know that Temagami will always be there and that cottage #37 will always be available for one week in July. I want to know that my mom is going to get mad at her kids, her siblings, her friends, and my dad is going to talk her down from her rage. And I know my dad wants all of these things, too.
In 12th grade I had to write a tribute speech for my Honors Speech & Composition class. At the time it was a no-brainer who I wanted to dedicate my speech to and if I had to write the assignment today, it would be the same person. My dad has been my hero, my inspiration, my rock, my guiding spiritual force throughout my life. He’s always supported every decision I made. He’s always believed that I could be anything I wanted to be — a lawyer, a supreme court justice, or a teacher. He never said negative things about my life to me. He always offered guidance and support when it was wanted. He gave me Temagami, that beautiful fishing village and large lake in Northern Ontario.
And now, he is guiding our family through this new reality of ours and continuing to be the solid foundation of support and love that he has always been for our family. Now, he just doesn’t have the pleasure of hiding in any shadows anymore. He has to step into the light. Maybe it’s time I join him.
I love you, dad. Happy Father’s Day.