Will You Call Me When You Get Home?

Jen’s Gem: A Father’s Love Is Priceless.

Nearly every time I visited my home town in Long Island with my children, my Dad would hand me a few dollars. Even though I was making a good income, it was his way of helping me out. As we departed, his final words were always “Call me when you get home.”

If you’re familiar with the Long Island Expressway, you know that getting home could be tricky especially with summer weekend traffic. When I would hit a snag, I’d have one of my kids call my father to tell him we were stuck in traffic so that he wouldn’t worry. Upon arrival, I’d give him a ring to let him know we arrived safely, albeit slightly irritated.

I’d tell him how much fun it was to be home and thanked him for all he did for us. Grilled steaks or perhaps a batch of my Mom’s fried chicken filled our bellies. Of course, there was the Sunday crossword puzzle that he and I would labor over. After dinner, a few games of cards with my kids and his declarations of “Oooh…that’s a good card” join the list of fun memories.

A cold beer on a hot summer day. Tomatoes from the garden. Conversations over coffee. Assistance with the notes above and below the clefs as I attempted to play piano pieces from my childhood. Advice with work challenges. Going to church.

One of the last memories I have of my father was him lying on a hospital bed, frail and weak. After 95 years of life, he had only days to live. My son’s 21st birthday was approaching and I had to make a decision whether to stay with my Dad or go home. I was paralyzed with indecision. Do I stay or do I go?

I looked to my oldest brother for direction who told me to go home and be with my son. As I said goodbye to my Dad, I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were filled with crocodile tears. He was not really conscious and couldn’t talk to me. Perhaps he didn’t even hear my final “I love you” as I left the hospital and headed to my car, knowing that I’d not see him again.

Sitting behind the wheel in the parking lot, I began to process the last few moments. Guilt about leaving  him overwhelmed me yet I knew I had to get it together so that I’d arrive home safely. As I headed down the Long Island Expressway and the tears subsided, I felt a peace about the decision.

My Dad would’ve approved of my decision to be with my son. It’s likely he would’ve wondered why I had such a hard time making the choice. Family meant everything to my father. Family first. Always. In answer to prayer, God sustained my father past my son’s birthday so that he’d not associate this milestone with the death of his beloved grandfather.

“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12)

In memory of him, my daughter has a tattoo on her wrist and carries his memorial card in her phone. When we play cards, each of us speaks about my father’s prowess and his deadpan quips. And of course, we always compare any grilled steak to his.

While his loss still stings, I’m beyond grateful for my father and the lessons he taught me. I have taught them to my kids and I pray they pass them along to theirs one day. I wish beyond wishing that I could spend this Father’s Day morning puzzling over the crossword puzzle with him one more time.

My father was my hero, my protector, my confidante, my friend. I miss him more than I can say and I look forward to seeing him again one day. Until then, I look to my Father in heaven for all of things my Dad gave me knowing that He cares for me and loves me without measure.

My father cared about every facet of my and my children’s lives. Our provision. Our safety. Our wellbeing. Our relationship. God does the same. He always provides for us. He watches over us. He brings us safely to and from our destinations. He’s always there when we call. God’s love never dies.

“And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Happy Father’s Day Dad. We got home safe and sound. See you next time. I love you.

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