An elderly man sits alone in a room in a skilled nursing facility. He can move around the room in his wheelchair, but he’s too frail to walk without assistance, or to do much else. Two younger men walk into the room with him. Over which of the two younger men does the older man have greater power?
You might say his power over both men is equal. And if your focus is on the older man’s physical strength, you’d be correct. But look closer.
One of the younger men is helpful to the older man. He’ll push his wheelchair, get food for him from the cafeteria, and call the nurse when the older man needs medical assistance. The other younger man, on the other hand, hangs on the elderly man’s every word.
The difference? That man is the elderly man’s son.
Lauren Eberspacher is the daughter of one of my former pastors. She is a nationally–recognized blogger and writes the blog “From Blacktop to Dirt Road” (www.fromblacktoptodirtroad.com, and on Facebook @fromblacktoptodirtroad). Her writing has been quoted by the Today show Parenting page on Facebook. In a her Father’s Day 2018 blog post entitled “The Things That Happen When Daddies Die – The Sacred Place of the In Between,” Lauren makes this poignant observation:
This is the sacred place of the in between.
The place where heaven meets earth, the moments we wait for and dread all at once. The minutes we want to pass quickly, yet hang onto for dear life. Where grown women climb into the hospital bed and lay next to little old men, just so that they can sit on their Dad’s lap one last time. Where grown men call them “Daddy,” instead of “Dad” and talk about all those summers they went fishing. Where Superheroes lose their strength, but not their power.
As I walk with my Dad through his final stages of Parkinson’s disease, that final sentence resonates with a robust ring.
My dad is now almost 80 years old. When I was growing up, he was one of the strongest men that I ever knew, a United States Marine. When you hugged him, reaching around his back was like hanging on to a brick wall. It was solid muscle.
Can he today reel in a big game fish while operating a 40-foot boat off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks like he used to? No, these days he sits in a semi-private room, on his bed, in a wheelchair, or in his recliner, unable to do much at all. Can he carry chopped firewood or haul cinderblocks with his bare hands? No, and no. His hands are idle now, after a lifetime of doing. But even though he no longer has the strength or ability to do things, and even though he and I can no longer have meaningful conversations, I’m that son who hangs on his every word when I’m with him. Why is that?
One of Webster’s definitions of “power” is “possession of control, authority, or influence over others.” Some of its other synonyms are even more telling: Authority. Control. Grip. Hold. Sway.
As Lauren said so eloquently, my Dad is Superman. The strongest and smartest man I ever knew, hands down. Yes, he has lost much of his physical strength. But, he has not lost any of his power. At least, not to me.
And his back still feels like a brick wall. I’m so jealous.