My father is 83 years old. He has Parkinson's Disease and some form of dementia. It is hard to watch him get worse daily. But, we've been feeling that for some time and he's still hanging on.
My father was a strong man. An athletic man. A man who could swim across a river, ride a horse bareback, and pray and read the Bible for hours on end. Now, he can barely walk across the room with his walker, wears a diaper, and pays very little attention to what goes on around him.
This picture was taken ten months ago. I was walking past his room and found him kneeling in prayer. It wrenched my heart because I had not seen him in this position for a very long time. I don't think I've seen him this way since. But, at one time it was a regular occurence.
I remember one time as a child when I had a raging fever that I woke up to see him sitting beside the bed reading the Word of God to me. I remember whenever there was an altar call in church, he would be the first one to the altar. It didn't matter what the call was for; he really wasn't responding to that. He just took every opportunity to pray. If the altars were open for prayer, he was going to be there.
He lived a hard life. He had many demons to fight -- both figuratively and in reality. But, he fought through. He was not the disciplinarian in our home, but he was our spiritual leader. He worked hard and provided for our family.
All of his great-grandchildren have a relationship with him, albeit a bit of an odd one. They love going into my parents' room. They watch tv in there, do puzzles, read books, and just play. (My mother has special drawers and cubbyholes that are just for them.) However, they watch out for Grandpa. If he starts to stand up, they all make a large wake for him to pass. They always talk to him, but he doesn't usually talk back. Just the other day, Israel (age 8) kept asking him to play a game with him. Grandpa never answered. But, Izzy asked him several times before giving up. But, on bad days, Grandpa will yell at them. "Get out of my way!" They don't seem to mind. It doesn't seem to phase them -- even the little ones. They just get out of his way. (Yelling is also a new thing. He was always very mild-mannered. Never raised his voice. Or banged, hit, or threw things. All new things.)
Rhema, age 2, has been a bit of a problem for Grandpa. She is rambunctious and head-strong. She doesn't sit still. She is always moving. I think that causes him to be stressed. So, we try to keep her out of his way. You would think from outward appearances that he doesn't like her at all.
Last Friday, when we went to court for the finalization of Rhema's and Deonte's adoption, Grandpa and Grandma went, too. Grandma really wanted to go and since we all wanted to be there, too, there was no one to leave Grandpa with. So, we loaded him up (wheelchair and all) and took him to court. I wondered if he knew why we were there.
As we left the courtroom, he asked my mother, "Don't I need to sign anything?" She said, "No, they've already done it." "Oh, so they did it for me?" "Yes." He was happy.
You don't know how touching that was for me. He did know a bit about what was happening. And he was willing to sign papers for their adoption into our family! Even little Rhema.
After court, about twenty-two of us went to Hometown Buffet to celebrate. Now, Grandpa hasn't been to a restaurant in a couple of years. We weren't sure how it was going to be. (He has a very hard time swallowing. This limits what he can eat and it makes his eating not very appetizing for anyone else at the table.) But, he ate a plateful of soft foods and even had ice cream for dessert. I think he enjoyed every minute of his outing. He came home and slept the rest of the day.
Days like the one pictured above and last Friday make me happy. I see a bit of my father in the man who is still here and I thank God for the heritage He gave me through my father, a man who loves the Lord with His whole heart.