I went to see my father this morning before heading into the office. I found him in the dining room, finishing up a bowl of oatmeal. His pants were half way open, revealing his diaper. There is some unorthodox irony in the fact that my son and my father are both in diapers. (Note to Self: Take a big, deep breath and keep your eye on the prize.)
He was so lucid this morning. What a gift. I held his hand. He is still so incredibly strong. We talked about poetry and his years in the ministry. I asked him about Peniel Mission – a mission in downtown Los Angeles where he conducted Sunday night services for homeless men – most of whom were dreadful alcoholics.
My father was a man before his time – sacrificing to serve in the inner city before it was trendy and cool. I remember going with him. My brother tells a story about how one time when we went all I cared about was getting my big bowl of strawberry ice cream, which they served following services. We always let the homeless men go first, and by the time they got to us, it was all gone. (This was quite devastating for a five-year-old.) He also told me about a time – and I remember it well – when a homeless man asked me to use my hairbrush. I’d been brushing my hair – some odd thing I did constantly everywhere I went. Again, I was five years old and carried a little purse, which I stuffed with a big hairbrush. I told the homeless man he couldn’t use it, which elicited a lecture from my brother: What Would Jesus Do? Who knew Billy’s homily would become a trendy slogan 30 years later?
My father told me a story today about when I was five-years-old. He said when I was a little girl I wore a short dress to Sunday School and my slip dragged below the hem. Some woman at the church came up to me and said, “You should cover up your underclothes!” My dad said I ran to him, lamenting: “But, I want people to know I wear underclothes!”
I loved this story and it made me laugh. But, then, I wondered. What if my father was talking about one of my sisters and this story isn’t about me at all. but about one of them? It was so incredibly good to see my dad today. He looked good enough to live forever.