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I am a Navy Brat. My dad was a career Navy man. During my growing up years my dad managed to spend more time away from home that at home. Consequently, the burden of raising three daughters, and then later a son, fell on my mother.  

When Dad was home he never had much to say, unless you get him on the topic of politics, the military, or memories. He was never one to help with discipline, and didn’t care to go places. But I worked to find little ways to connect with him. I’d offer to bring him his slippers and paper. Serve him a cup of coffee. Make a Jello No-Bake Cheesecake (he loved those!). I’d go hang out with him while he had his head under the hood of our old pick-up and ask questions. He’d answer in as short of sentences as possible. That’s probably when I learned to ask open ended questions, unsatisfied with a yes or no.  

I’ve always loved my Dad, but we’ve never been close. Dad was so uninvolved in our lives, that when he showed up at my Homecoming, I was stunned! He acted as if it were the most normal thing in the world to be at my special occasion, I wondered at that, since he never came to anything else I could remember.

I gave Dad a little book once for Father’s Day, I must have been about 12 years old. It was one of those little sentimental “Your a Great Father” books. I saw him get tears in his eyes. I never felt closer to him.

I struggle with feeling like a good daughter, I just don’t go see my dad often. I hesitate to call, because he doesn’t hear well on the phone. And, honestly, he doesn’t make an effort to come see me either. Well, that was then. This is now.

Now my little brother (41, but 11 years my junior) lays in an ICU bed in another state 6 hours away. Dad and I went together last week to St. Louis to see Phillip. We spent 12 hours traveling roundtrip, and 4 days together total. And something amazing happened. Incredible, really. In 4 days we spanned a relationship chasm of 52 years. We talked about everything. My childhood, his family, my kids, his cancer, my brother, his son. Oh, and yes, the Military and politics as well.

One evening, standing in the little grotto behind the hospitality house we stayed in, he said to me, "Bug (he has always called me Bug), it's not the best circumstances, but I have really enjoyed our time together." I'm getting choked up, "Me too, Dad." He continues, "I love ALL my kids (brief pause), but you're my first !" Fade out with big, almost back breaking hug.

Wow! I’m 12 again, somehow. Finally with the love and approval a daughter always yearns for from her daddy. And as difficult as these days are, while my baby brother’s life hangs in the balance, I will always treasure this time with my dad.  

Funny thing, I’m calling him almost every day now.

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