My 89-Year-Old Father Gets Himself a Bedside Manner

I’ve got something to say about my 89-year-old father.

This is the father who spent decades writing organizational policy and writing sermons, who reads and writes history for pleasure and because history matters, who would rather sit in a committee meeting with goals to reach than go to a party, where it’s hard to know what to say.

This is the father who brought me up to do deskwork—to balance household ledgers and pay bills and type letters from his dictation. He oriented me to his elaborately subdivided four-drawer subject file. He taught me to scan articles in periodicals to determine their foci. And if it was an article, for example, about what amillennialists believed about the Great Tribulation, to file it under ES-AM-GT. This is the father whose idea of having fun with me was to help me trace my ancestry to the other side of the ocean.

This is also the father who has been known to faint at the sights of needles and blood and who avoided diaper changes when he could and gagged through them when he couldn’t. Although I’ve heard lots of people say nice things about my dad, I’ve never once heard anyone rave about his bedside manner or say he is a natural caregiver.

But these people haven’t seen my dad lately.

My mom’s been through some tough times—a series of falls and fevers and digestive disturbances.

When I checked in by phone this morning, her voice broke.

“Your dad has been so good to me,” she said. “I feel sorry for what he’s had to clean up after me.”

“You should have called me,” I told my dad.

But he had another view.

“Sixty-eight years ago,” he said, “I made a promise that I intend to keep.”

I’ve long admired my policy-writing dad. But never as much as I do now when I watch him count pills and fix sitz baths and tuck my mom safely into bed.

It’s only then that he goes back to his study to write some more history.

7 Replies to “My 89-Year-Old Father Gets Himself a Bedside Manner”

  1. Dear Phyllis, thank you for these moving words honoring your dad. Their marriage is a wonderful example to many. They both speak so appreciatively of your care for them as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this tribute to your parents, and the way your father is adding to his best self to care for your mother. A few years ago, I was in Harrisonburg when your parents visited John Ivan and Emily. We had dinner together at their house, and it was a joy to reconnect! It’s been a long time since I was a Rosedale student!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to have parents who serve each other, love each other, appreciate each other, and care for each other. Dad does this for Mom, and Mom does this for Dad. And both have done this for us children, not to mention our descendants and many in the community and across the church. Thanks, sister, for this touching tribute. What you write is so true of Dad!


  4. Thank you so much for sharing this, Phyllis. From our school days I remember your father as being a man of great integrity and principle. This story further reinforces my memories and the impressions he made on a little kid those many years ago. Please extend my greetings and well wishes to both your parents.


  5. I’ve thought so highly of your parents . And the family they “raised”. Greetings to your parents & to you &your siblings.


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