It’s the little things in recovery that are the greatest blessings! My parents were high-school sweethearts; they were married young and spent their entire adult lives together in love. My mom passed on five years ago in March, leaving my father to live alone for the first time in over six decades. Dad has had several surgeries since mom passed, and his health has been declining. He turned eighty-six years old in January; he walks with a walker and often uses a wheelchair.
“So much is asked of parents, and so little is given.” –Virginia Satir
My siblings live quite far away, too far to visit my dad very often; he spends a good amount of time alone. He does have home-health care come in to help him for a few hours every day. I actually live in the same house; however, I have a separate apartment on the opposite side of the house. I am also in a wheelchair and have been for almost five years now. Even though my dad can’t walk very well, up until recently, he was able to walk better than I could. It has been a cruel fate that we haven’t been able to see each other much and both spent too much time alone.
Hearing of my father’s decline, I made it my priority to spend time with him no matter how much pain I am in. I have visited him daily for the past three days; what a tremendous blessing it has been for us both! Just to see my dad smile makes any pain well worth it for me. I can see that he looks forward to my afternoon and evening visits and they really do lift his spirits.
My parents were there for me my whole life no matter what I needed, they were there for me. I was very blessed as a younger man to have two loving and understanding parents who were so committed. In addiction all addicts do is take and take from their parents; they cause all kinds of stress as parents wait for the phone to ring. Parents wait for the call that their addicted child is dead, in jail, or in the hospital; it’s a horrible way to live.
In recovery trust is built between the son or daughter and the parents again over time. One of the greatest gifts of my life in recovery has been being a good son again. Being there for my mom when she passed and being able to spend all those good years with her previously. Now being there for dad and spending time with him, supporting him in his time of need. He had cancer surgery a few months ago and I knew it will be high risk at dad’s age. This was his sixth surgery over a short period. I had faith that everything would turn out just fine; dad is a tough United-States Airforce Vet.
Most of the time, he’ll just sit quietly in his recliner and watch the television with me. We talk a little bit of small talk and he’ll nod off. I’ll stay a few hours after he falls asleep and an aid will come and help him up to bed. He’ll usually ask, “Are you coming over tomorrow?” You know the answer is yes! I couldn’t stand to think of dad sitting there alone all afternoon and evening. I love him too much for that!
I know are time together on this earth is running out. We both are Christians so that’s alright with us because of our beliefs. It’s the little things that bless me most these days and that I appreciate the most:
Good talks with family or friends.
Spending time with my dogs.
Writing, writing, writing.
The star-lit Pennsylvania sky.
A good poem.
My dog sleeping under my blanket on my legs.
A nice hot shower.
There used to be so many things that I took for granted. I thought that the world owed me a living that I deserved to be entertained all the time. I thought that I needed to live life in the fast lane, faster, faster, faster, every day! I was missing the best things in life, the simple joys.
If I could teach young people anything today, I would say,
Don’t do drugs
Listen to older people, they have lived a long time and have wisdom
Life is short, don’t take yourself so seriously
Take more risks
Take care of your body, it’s the only one you get
Be kind to old people; you will be old someday too
We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers
Love is more powerful than anything else
Don’t forget to breathe
Don’t forget to look
Don’t let anyone take your voice
Don’t let anyone hurt you or the people you love
Hard work pays off, smart work pays off
Be good to yourself and others
Always be a student of life
I know that not all people are as blessed as I have been to have such great parents. I learned some great lessons from my parents; although, they made their share of mistakes over the years, they did the best that they could. I couldn’t be prouder of who my mother was and who my father is; they truly are my heroes, the ones who showed me how to live and be a good person. I will forever be in their debt.
Two months ago, my dad had to go into a nursing home in Connecticut because of his declining health, my sister lives near the home and visits with him just about every day. I live in Pennsylvania and won’t be able to see my father now. I can’t say this is easy; to be honest it’s heart wrenching. I have no family where I am and can’t see my family because they’re too far away and I don’t drive because of a physical disability. This is a real test of faith! I believe that God has a plan and that is all I need to know for today.
Family is so important, when you don’t have any near you, you really feel it! Being disabled and not having family around, my dogs have become very important to me; they make all the difference in each day. They find a way to make me smile and laugh several times a day; they are so precious. I know that I’m never alone as long as I have God in my life. He always comes through, when I have need, whatever it is, He provides it.
This may well be the most difficult time of my life; however, I know that there are other poor souls that have it harder than I do. I know my dad doesn’t like being in a nursing home one bit, but he needs the round the clock care. Life is a circle, it’s hard to understand why certain things happen, but it’s just life, the good and the not so good.
All any of us can do is the best that we can each day. I pray that my life will honor my parents and my God. That means doing the best that I can each day to make the world a better place until my circle is complete. I’m a blessed man.
Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D.