My father was loud, opinionated, a great storyteller and a fast friend. From the day I was old enough to know it, I was confident that he loved me and would do his best to take care of me and provide for my every need. Of course, he wasn’t perfect, and over the years he said and did a lot of things that were hurtful to me and others. But he taught me to drive, he nurtured my love of horses, and he gave me a passion for fishing! He couldn’t figure out how to relate to me after I grew into womanhood, and so in some ways, we drifted apart. We stopped going fishing together, and whenever I called home he would ask if everything was okay, then hand the phone to my mother, but I always knew he truly loved me and wanted only the best for me.
Daddy died just two years after I married Chris. He never knew my children, and I’m sorry they never met their grandfather. This week he would have been 100, and I still miss him 28 years after his death. While I was never my father’s caregiver, I was always his little girl.
If you provide care for your father, Chris and I hope you know how precious your time with him is. While giving care has its rewards, sometimes being a family caregiver may be embarrassing, awkward, or frustrating. If your dad has dementia, you may feel like you are caring for a stranger. If he has lost the ability to attend to his own intimate needs, you could find yourself helping him with toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, and many other things that he helped you with when you were little. If your father raised you, don’t let yourself forget that this man taught you many of the things that make you who you are today. Maybe he isn’t able to thank you for the care you give; perhaps he doesn’t even know who you are, or is angry or embarrassed when it feels like he is the little child now and you are the parent, but remember what is important here. He is your father, and you are no longer a small child, but an adult who is gifted and equipped to provide the care he needs in this time of his life.
This weekend we celebrate Father’s Day, a Sunday set aside to remember our dads and the ways they influenced us over the years. If you are your father’s caregiver, you honor him every day as you care for his needs with your gentle touch, attentive assistance, and encouraging words. Just as he cared for you when you were little because he loved you, now you have the opportunity to care for him from that same motivation.
If the care you provide is not motivated by love, but by obligation or necessity, pray and ask the Father above to give you a heart overflowing with love and joy. Ask Him to help you find the wellspring of love that only He can provide. We don’t all have great relationships with our dads, and they may fail us many times, but our Heavenly Father never will. His command to honor our parents didn’t stipulate that we do so if they are worthy of our honor.
If you’ve lost your father as I have, or even if you’ve just lost the connection with him, make a list this week of all the ways he positively influenced your life. Reflect with gratitude on your list and try to share it with him if he is still a part of your life. If you provide care for him, take a few walks down memory lane and let him experience the profound joy of sharing with his child again. Let this renewed connection give you both strength for this season of care.
We hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about memories of your father.