I’m FULL of spontaneous ideas.
But, in the whirlwind of activity that is my everyday life, I’m not always known for following through on all of them. But recently, one wild idea came out of my mouth at Sunday dinner and four days later my dad and I found ourselves on the other side of the country crossing a HUGE item off his bucket list!
Let me back up for a moment. Here’s what you need to know about my dad:
My dad’s name is Paul and he has had a PROFOUND impact on my life. In fact, he is my personal hero.
I have a few enduring memories of my dad from my growing up years. He played in a band, he could fix anything, he drove a semi-truck with my stuffed animals in the cab, and he was always helping people. I remember one time how he and other truck drivers from his company volunteered to drive donated hay from farmers in Wisconsin to southern states during the farm crisis of the 1980s. Another time he and my mom opened our home to a friend who needed full-time care after a fire accident. They opened our home to anyone during the holidays who needed a family.
And although my dad was hard working and generous, life was not without struggles. In one memorable case, he lost his truck-driving job and took a job digging ditches on the railroad to keep our family going. As a young teen, I watched my dad do whatever he needed to do to support his family. He modeled for me what overcoming obstacles could look like.
Eventually he became a foreman, spending a decade out in California managing big railroad projects and building a network of new relationships: coworkers, locals, visitors, neighbors. My dad collected friends wherever he went.
When he retired and moved back to Wisconsin a few years ago, he would often talk about his favorite hangout back in San Pedro – a local lounge called Rebel’s. It was the place my dad associated with his best friendships from the latter part of his career, and its sentimental value multiplied exponentially when he moved back to the midwest.
We got word a few weeks ago that Rebel’s was closing for good to make way for a new development. When my dad found out, I could just see this sadness falling over his face. He said, “I always hoped I could see everyone one more time.”
It was like a switch flipped inside me when he said that.
“Well, why can’t we, Dad??” I couldn’t keep the excitement of the idea from rising in my voice.
At first, he listed all the reasons we couldn’t go. His health, doctor appointments, mobility challenges, and of course the fact that Rebel’s last day of business was only a few days away.
So we left the conversation there for a moment while I did some research. Once I laid out the logistics, I told my dad and his wife that I wanted to make the trip happen. I would reserve the first class plane tickets and rental car, and we would arrange to be at the final barbeque at Rebel’s that very Friday afternoon.
His wife sent me a single text: “He said YES. He’s excited to go!” And I thought my heart would burst with happiness.
You see, what I haven’t shared is that my dad had been seriously ill this past spring and summer. He spent almost two months in and out of the hospital fighting infections. Some of the time he was in an induced coma. The road to recovery had been brutal and getting back to doing normal things seemed out of reach. So for him to get excited about this was flat-out PHENOMENAL.
I’m proud to report that the trip was indeed a success. The travel was definitely difficult after so many surgeries this summer. But every time we needed a wheelchair or a cart or a close place to park, it was miraculously there. God’s fingerprints were definitely on this trip. It was a memory of a lifetime to enter into his world in California and see him be greeted by his old friends … some of them were even crying at the sight of him! It was emotional and wonderful and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Whether you’re thinking of your parents as you read this, or thinking of someone else in your life who had a major impact, I challenge you to find a way to bless them. It doesn’t have to be a spontaneous cross-country trip, but you’ll never regret spending the time or money. Push the excuses aside because every day is precious.
Think about how you can encourage someone you love as a gift of your gratitude.
Don’t wait. Do it now. You won’t have an ounce of regret for having spent your time in this way.