With Valentine’s Day approaching a couple of weeks ago, I picked up my dad to go out with him to look for a gift for his wife. It’s probably safe to say that gift-giving is not one of my dad’s love languages, probably because material goods mean so little to him, personally. Although an exceedingly generous man at heart, his generosity would likely be expressed in gifts of his time and help; say, help in moving into a new home, or in putting the heart pine flooring in said home, or in moving all your basement possessions to a higher floor and sandbagging around, you guessed it, said home when floodwaters threatened, etc.
I remember while I was working at Sears during college, my dad would come in on Christmas Eve day needing advice and help on picking out some gifts for my mom. [In fairness to dad, the store was primarily visited by men on that day… and I don’t mean just a few.] My dad is twice a widower and has been blessed to find a godly third wife who brings a richness to their union and Dad is a better person for her in his life. So, although admittedly challenged in the gift-giving department myself, I have been glad to revive our old shopping relationship, helping him look for that just-right gift for their special occasions. Thankfully for both of us, we are usually helped by advice from my two distant sisters, who must have received my mom’s genes in this area – ha.
In the past few years the family has begun to notice some difficulties my dad has been having with his memory. I know this bothers him and I regret that he cannot always recall the history we both share. Here’s what I’ve observed, though, on our hunting trips. Although shopping for a woman is still foreign territory (“I don’t know what they like”) and Dad is more likely than ever to second guess his judgment these days, even in little things; when given the time to make his own selection (with a little of my input), he still proves himself to be the kind-hearted person I’ve always known him to be, taking in his choices and doing his best to give sober consideration for the person for whom he’s shopping. He may not always remember later what gift he purchased or where he put it, but in the moment, in the day he made the purchase, his thoughts are toward the person and toward expressing as much care as he can in getting them something they will like.
I am reminded of a true love story I read of Ian and Larissa. This couple met and fell in love in college. Both loved the Lord and each other and were making plans to be married when Ian suffered a major head injury from a car accident which left him sick and disabled. After waiting four years, Ian and Larissa renewed their plans and were married with eyes wide open. It’s definitely a story worth reading.
In a follow-up to their life, I remember Larissa talked about all the lessons she learns from living with her disabled husband. One lesson had to do with the fact that Ian struggles with his long-term memory. She said that as much as she would wish for a husband who remembered along with her, she has learned from Ian to live in the present and to be mindful in the present. Ian never holds a grudge or nurses a grievance. It is impossible for him to keep a record of wrongs. This reality has taught Larissa to live more in the moment, to enjoy the pleasures at hand when they come, to take what Ian can offer in the moment, etc.
I am grateful for the example my dad is setting for me through his losses and struggles, whether he realizes it or not. More and more, when we are together, we may only have the present to share and, really, isn’t that all any of us are promised? But even though things have changed, I am grateful for the many presents that we are still able to enjoy (and yes, there is a double meaning in that).