2017-04-19 / Opinions & Letters

Answers in reflection

Some things can’t be explained. But some things are explained long after the fact. There is marvel in the art of reflection.

In those later years, when my dad lived alone in the red brick bungalow on 107th Street, he seemed very content. On the occasion when I would drop in on him, I would swing down Drew Street then turn in the back alley, park on the parking pad out back and come in via the back door.

If the weather was mild, that back door was always open, the screen door letting a breeze into the house. Dad would usually be seated at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and listening to his FM radio. Overhead, the florescent light fixture cast an unflattering light and a bothersome hum - yet the vignette was a tranquil one. My dad was a content man.

Guests were a rarity at my dad’s home in those later years. His church crowd dwindled and aged past visiting, his musician friends would gather and visit only downtown at the union hall. No, dad and his black and white dog had the place mostly to themselves. And the house looked that way.

On occasion, a visitor from out of town would stay with my dad in his home. My sister Allison from Colorado, cousin Stuart from Virginia, a great nephew from South Bend. Usually I had notice of such visits and would scurry over in advance to help make things presentable.

On those occasions of overnight visitors, my dad became a study in contrasts. He seemed thrilled to have the company, looked forward to the visits, and he made certain to have a box of plain cake donuts on hand for breakfast and baloney, cheese and white bread for lunch. But one thing he did not do for company. He did not change his routine or his schedule.

This puzzled me for years. It seemed inattentive to me not to have a plan or an itinerary for guests. It seemed less than truly hospitable in my book. But that was only in my selfwritten book of rules, the rules my dad did not obey, for my dad genuinely opened his home and genuinely enjoyed his guests. He simply did not break his slow moving stride for them.

This past weekend I got a gentle nudge of a feeling, a realization, a joy that was new to me but one my dad knew better than me.

My dad was a master at the simplicity of contentment.

Guests sleeping under his humble roof were a blessing, their mere presence a happy occasion. That was sufficient. Planning, schedules, changes of schedules, none of that was necessary for a nice visit. And I think his guests understood.

Our family gathered together for Easter this past weekend in Chicago. This meant that the three grandchildren from Virginia were in town so those of us in Delphi headed north. A friend of the family hosted the big egg hunt and festivities and six active children, a big furry dog named Harry and good food and visiting made for a fun weekend.

And so it was that given our Chicago housing options and various schedules calling some back to Carroll County, that on Sunday night I wound up the sole grandparent with the three grandchildren as my guests in our little two-room studio apartment downtown.

And during the night on a trip to the washroom with the help of a little moonlight showing me the way, I tiptoed past three small children in sleeping bags and in slumber. And when I returned to bed and listened to the gentle breathing in the room - the universe telegraphed me a cautionary memo: do not take casually the contentment of this moment.

And so it was this past Sunday I learned a lesson my dad somehow knew long before me. Claim the contentment simply in sharing the night under the same roof with those for whom you care.

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