My Dad loved being a father, and loved being embraced by the family. The only thing he couldn't accept was a compliment. Or being the center of attention.
That was typical of George Brannon Moore. Father's Day was particularly tough for my Dad, because here was a day, obligated to attention.
"Dad," I'd ask, "When do you want me over for Father's Day?"
"Alison," he said in his Arkansas-twang accent, "I know you love me. I'm glad you want to spend time with me. But you don't have to come over. For me, the greatest present you could give me was if you'd get yourself a good night's sleep."
Dad was of the "Greatest Generation." That was the generation, as Tom Brokaw termed it,
"The WWII generation shares so many common values: duty, honor, country, personal responsibility and the marriage vow " For better or for worse--it was the last generation in which, broadly speaking, marriage was a commitment and divorce was not an option”
Dad embraced family life with a roaring passion. He loved one woman--my mother--for 57 1/2 years. There was no better family than "Mooresville." He had very few close friends, though he and my mother were embraced in their circle of friends and church community. He was a protective, loving man, whose presence was felt even if he was in another room. He made sure people knew how much they were loved.
This Father's Day was different for all of us. Dad died on Tuesday, April 30, at age 91, of terminal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). Even in his last weeks, his thoughts were of his family. For weeks prior to his death, as he struggled for each and every breath, I saw him struggling to hold conversations with each one of us.
To me, his first-born, his words were poignant:
"You deserve happiness, Alison."
I heard that, loud and clear.
Yesterday, Father's Day, I heard his voice in my head, saying the same thing. I pictured his last, loving look at me, just prior to going back into the hospital.
"You're beautiful," he whispered.
Despite the poignant memory, I couldn't cry yesterday, as I thought I might. I haven't since I said my final good-bye to him at the hospice where he took his final, labored breath.
I have felt guilty, at times, that I haven't been able to cry harder for this profound loss.
Instead, yesterday, I reflected on my luck to have a father who appreciated me and my strengths, encouraged me (sometimes ferociously), to have a better opinion of myself, who wouldn't accept less than the best from me.
In a move I have come to consider very brave, Dad allowed me to be myself, which is pretty courageous when you think of what I have done with my life. I worked in a psychiatric hospital when he didn't want me, a psychologist's daughter, to spend my days working in that environment. Though he hated team sports like baseball and football, I could be the tomboy I was. Despite my growing up Lutheran, he was the first to embrace my Catholic (as well as catholic) faith. Most of all, he allowed me to make my own decisions. He was just there to help me through the tough times, the times when it was hard to believe in myself and my abilities, and to reassure me, time and time again, that I could trust my instincts.
In the same breath, he asked forgiveness for his own perceived failures. He told me, time and time again, how sorry he was for "ruining" my 10th birthday with his temper, and being 'cheap' when he was afraid to spend money, or not perceiving, two decades ago, how my marriage would turn out.
I told him he was being silly. Those were nonissues with me, I said. "I'm glad for that, Alison," he said. "But I can't forgive me."
Why couldn't I cry for the man who loved me with all of his heart, who recognized his wrongs and humbly asked for forgiveness, on his holiday?
At long last, the thought struck me: How can I mourn him, when I just felt so lucky to have him long enough to settle our differences and embrace the love and respect we had for each other?
Not everyone gets that chance. And I am grateful for each and every moment we had together on Earth.
Every value that he had as a member of the greatest generation is in his family's collective soul. Everything he had overcome--poverty, near-starvation, the Depression, World War II, the KKK, the move from the deep South to the North--put "muscles in his soul," as he was fond of saying.
Dad's 'muscles', and his spirit--all of that lives on through us, his three children, three grandchildren, and his three great-grandchildren. And in all of his 'granddogs.'
Finally, I realized only his physical body had left us. Dad's spirit will remain, tied to each one of us, forever.
That is not a moment to be mourned, but to be celebrated, generation after generation. For a man who wanted the attention focused on others, not himself, it is a perfect legacy.