By Bradford Thompson
When I was a young kid I would ride with my dad to take my two sisters to school.
I remember one particular time when I stood (yes “stood”) next to my dad as he drove me back to our house.
He asked me, “Is it ok for a dad to tell his son that he loves him?”
“Yes” I replied.
“I love you son.”
“I love you dad.”
He hugged me and kissed my forehead. This conversation would repeat over the years of my early childhood and even into the awkward teen years. Later, it was usually after we both had a drink or two.
Sometime in my early adulthood he explained to me how his dad never said “I love you.” He told me that his father was disconnected. My dad said he made it a personal goal to be sure his kids knew he loved them—and he did.
My father suffered from pulmonary fibrosis later in his life. It ultimately took him. I watched as he told the nurse that he wanted to be marked as a “do not resuscitate.” The bravery there was overwhelming. We took him home for hospice care.
His blood oxygen steadily dropped over the coming days. He was on 100% oxygen which was delivered through a mask. We had all of the most powerful pain meds available but his breathing became increasingly laborious.
One night during all of this I went for a run. I just needed to let my emotions out. I let my thoughts drift and as I fell into a cadence, I breathed in and out thinking of my dad fighting to breathe.
The next day he bounced back. He was lucid—eating and talking. That day I was fortunate enough to have a moment with him.
I asked “Is it ok for a son to tell his dad he loves him?”
He smiled and replied “yes.”
“I love you dad.”
“I love you too, son.”
I got up and went to kiss his forehead and I whispered to him “You did it dad. You broke the cycle. I will carry it forward.”
He was gone a few days later. What gifts I have been given.
I was given love. I was given a chance to give it back. And I was so fortunate to say goodbye. Now and then I pause and step away from the noise. Often I breathe and think about my dad.
I tell my kids how much I love them every chance I get. My oldest is getting to that awkward time where it seems uncomfortable, but I say it anyway.
I say it because, love rules.
Editor: Dana Gornall