My father could be a difficult man. No, I’m not going to detail how and when or why–for this story it’s enough to say that he could be difficult and we had a pretty contentious relationship well into my adulthood. I thought him a fearsome figure.
Our relationship has strengthened significantly since his death in 2008 and he’s been ever-present in my life since.
So there I was last week in my hometown of Rochester, NY staying with my oh-so-fabulous sister-in-love who happens to be friends with a woman who lived in the large and airy apartment above my father’s pediatric office. Years ago.
Since this woman, let’s call her Janet, and her young son were my parents’ tenants, she knew them back in the day when they were both alive. I’d met her at least once, many years ago.
Janet dropped by one morning during my visit and made a point to tell me the following story:
“Both your parents were very good to me,” she said, “but I’ll never forget one particular day when my son was very sick. Your father said ‘bring him right right down and I’ll take a look at him.’
That sounded like my father–he’d always see a sick kid. No appointment needed. Yes, those were the old days of medicine.
“At the time we were really struggling. I didn’t have any health insurance, but I did bring my son down and your dad examined him. ‘He’s got chicken pox,’ he told me. I asked your father what I owed him and he looked up, shook his head and said, ‘Nothing. Go on upstairs and take care of your son.'”
I had to smile at her story, even as I brushed away tears.
THAT was my father. Not too long ago I wrote about my father’s generosity HERE and how it sometimes broke his heart when people he had been good to failed to reciprocate when he asked something of them. Janet’s anecdote is a perfect example of his kindness and generosity.
Not everyone saw it. Not everyone who saw it got it. And too few who benefited from his generosity were anywhere near as thoughtful in return.
My view of my father changed drastically as I aged. For a very long time I couldn’t see his goodness. And then, over time, I began to.
It occurs to me that people are never all good or all bad. Including ourselves. That people we think are so difficult have redeeming qualities, even if we don’t see those traits.
I’m grateful I saw my father’s exceptional qualities, even though it took me a very long time. And I am especially grateful that he continues to show them to me, even after death.
I love him more than ever. And, for the first time, I see how much he loved me–and everyone else.