My dad hugged me goodbye when he left me at the airport. Twice. The best part of every visit is seeing his smiling face waiting for me when I arrive and the hardest part is saying good bye and seeing the tears in his eyes. We celebrated the ninety years of his life this weekend and how precious any time together is. We've both made choices that led us to live nearly 2000 miles apart. I go as often as I can and call every week but the tug of guilt sometimes pains me. If I were a better daughter I would have:
1) Never left my home town
2) Been there to help him when my mom was sick
3) Visited more than once a year when the kids were little
4) Be there to help him in his old age
On my bad days that is the litany I hear in my head. He doesn't say that. There are no recriminations, no criticism (except about my weight, as always). The guilt is mine. On my good days I know he made choices. He decided to stay near his friends rather than move closer to me. He didn't come to visit much when he physically still could. Sometimes it makes it easier.
We celebrated his birthday this weekend. My son and wife came to share dinner with us. They've just moved 2 hours away from him and try to come when they can. We had cake, sang "Happy Birthday" took pictures and had a bang-up time. I took a day and cooked his favorite noodles. We reminisced about old times, old friends and family now gone. We laughed and enjoyed the few short days together
Despite the happiness, he is pensive. The weight of being ninety and knowing time is limited sometimes weighs him down. He wonders why the the opportunity for us to be together with the kids came so late. He's been alone a long time.
Life is bittersweet, a cliche, but true. I hug him goodbye knowing ever time may be the last and plan for the next visit and the smile on his face as I walk through the door.