And thank you too, Dad

By  Harry McAvoy, Catholic Register Special
  • June 12, 2009
{mosimage}It had been a busy day at the office and as I walked into the house I was psyching myself up for an evening of parenting.

As the father of a large family there is always someone who needs attention. Any given night could include a trip to the arena or basketball court, dropping one of the older children off at their part-time jobs, or helping Emma and Hope with their homework.

Standing in the front hall, I noticed the message light flashing on the phone. There were two new messages. I deleted the first and moved on to the next.

I heard the familiar voice of my father, and I began to smile. Sounding a little confused he said, “Hi Harry, it’s just me calling.  I’m at . . . ” 

There was a pause for a few seconds. Then I heard him say: “Whose house am I at?”

I can picture my father sitting at the kitchen table, staring pleadingly at my mother. In the background I hear mom say, “It’s four o’clock.” Dad returns his attention to the phone and continues, “Oh, it’s four o’clock. Just call me when you get the chance.”

I saved the message and leaned back in the chair, still smiling. My thoughts turned to Jesus. I quietly said a prayer of thanksgiving for two wonderful parents who have and continue to provide me with the most wonderful example of faith, hope and love. I also asked the Holy Spirit to grace my mother and sister, dad’s primary care providers, with the patience of St. Monica.      

My dad is suffering from the disease I describe as “The Long Goodbye.” Alzheimer’s is an illnesses where you lose your loved one twice. Dad has now progressed to the stage where increasingly he is uncertain of his whereabouts, even in his own home. 

In my mind I picture Dad deciding to call me, being disappointed when he heard the recorded message and, not remembering where he was, worrying I wouldn’t know where to find him. I can see my mother starting to prepare dinner, doing some dishes or maybe stealing a peak at a book. She knows her husband is calling her son, so maybe for a few minutes she can relax. Not on this day.

Dad is calling out to mom and she responds, “It’s four o’clock.”  Dad repeats, “It’s four o’clock,” and he is satisfied. 

I listen to the message again, and then again. It is a poignant reminder that my dad, and my mother’s husband of almost 53 years, is slipping away.

For some the thought of a parent passing would be devastating. For me it is very sad but I find great comfort in my faith. 

I know I will miss my dad terribly in ways that I can’t yet understand. In many ways I already do. 

But I am more than secure in my belief that when my dad slips from this life, he will not be journeying in darkness. Rather, on the other side, just the blink of an eye away, my dad, Harry McAvoy Sr., will step from the bonds of his current ailments and into the arms of Jesus. They will know each other and they will laugh as they embrace.

As if it could get even better, beside Jesus will be my sister. When my father scoops up Catherine, the daughter he lost so many years ago, Jesus and all of heaven will rejoice, as a good man’s heart bursts with joy.

(McAvoy writes on family issues in the Toronto area.)

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