I’ve really had two dads in my life. The same guy, just two different people at two different periods of my life. My earliest memories are of a guy who could do anything. My dad is an outdoorsman, a do-it-yourselfer, a craftsman, a born teacher, and a gifted storyteller. He was tall, deceptively strong, and just knew how to do everything. I remember working with him to split firewood, I was eight or nine, and he showed me how to use a maul and I just thought there was no one smarter or stronger. I remember changing the oil and brake pads on our car and thinking that no one could be more capable or competent. I remember pulling up old carpet and laying down new, watching him trim and notch it with perfect foresight and was astounded that anyone could know so much. As a teenager and young adult, I relied on him for things that I didn’t know how to do. He got a lot of calls from me at college asking about money, electricity, and car repair. He was a comfort and an inspiration to me when I was a missionary, remembering the stories he’d told me and the example he’d set.
About 10 years ago, my dad had a stroke and a seizure. It was the beginning of the progressive effects of non tremor Parkinson’s disease. I don’t really know what that must feel like to go through, but as someone watching it, and in my own parent, it’s a very scary and hopelessly unnerving experience. I feel helpless to witness his deterioration--it seems like he suddenly got old very fast. And I feel lost that, with the time I can spend with him, he isn’t the dad I remember. Fortunately, he is a very optimistic person. He tends to be upbeat, unjudgmental, and fairly at-ease with his situation. But it’s been hard on the rest of us, especially Mom, to lose the patriarch, the DIY-er, the man who could do just about anything. He’s simpler now. He still likes telling stories. And he still inspires me to live a good life. But I already miss the first dad in my life. And I’m trying to make the most of and be grateful for the time I still have with my dad, stage two.