My dad may not live to read this column. He is a warrior who has been for 23 months fighting a battle with leukemia. My columns usually focus on local and political events, but this week, all I can think about is dad.
I am the product of being raised by a father who lost his father at 7 years old. With 9 living brothers and sisters, his siblings pulled together and scraped, scratched and fought to hold on as a family, and not be separated because of poverty. He joined the air force, to learn a trade and to have money to send home.
This man raised a family of three, and was married to my mom for 47 years, until she died suddenly. Life had not been easy for dad – he worked twenty hour days to build a business and provide for his family. He coached little league and bought me braces. He took us to church every Sunday, and every Wednesday night. He insisted my brothers and I go to college, and he helped as much as he could financially with our college degrees.
Even now, my dad’s bond with his North Carolina family is unbreakable. It was his younger, 72-year-old sister that donated her stem cells for his transplant. His greatest wish right now? To get “back to the mountains to see sisters and brother.” His bond with his church family is also unbreakable – they stood and clapped when he quietly walked in a few weeks ago. And his bond with us – his three kids – is tough. He never lets me leave or hang up a phone call without saying “I love you , sis.”
In the last few months, my brothers and I have spent hours asking him questions. What piece of advice does he want to give his grandkids? “Keep the faith.” What was his favorite vacation? “Jackson Hole with all my kids and grandkids.” In business, I remember small lessons he gave me – ones that serve me to this day. “Don’t look for a new customer until you have made all your old ones happy.” “Just make a decision – then you can work on making it the right one.” “Take care of your employees.”
During my latest election, he was deeply hurt by things that were published about him and me. He told me “this is a dirty business, sis, and I don’t really want you swimming in it.” When I lost, he told me he knew Congress would be better if I was there, but that he was relieved and so glad I could spend more time with him. And now, so am I.
As we stay with dad through these last minutes, we see his great wisdom. We know his faith in God gives him strength, and that his daily prayers always start with “thank you.” We know that the business he built is more important for the lessons we learned from it, than from the financial gain. We know that the vacations we took are more important for the laughs we had than for the destination. We know that people come and go in our lives, but family and faith are the foundation of a life well lived. We know that politics is irrelevant but families are life-changing.
My advice to you? Tell your dad you love him. Celebrate him on Father’s Day, and every other day.
Patrice publishes a regular column in Edmond Life & Leisure which covers everything from politics and culture to family. She is also a regular guest host on KWTV’s Flash Point.