“I’ve got five great kids,” he’d boast, holding up his hand, fingers spread apart like exclamation marks. “Four daughters,” he’d say, carefully folding the fingers over, leaving a hitchhiker’s thumb—missing half its nail since that last power tool incident— “and one son. Five great kids and not a lemon in the bunch!”
If you lingered, he would slowly recite the names, sometimes struggling but never failing to come up with all five.
Though he’s been gone for several years, my sister and I still marvel at the miracle of this man we call “New Dad.”
The father we were more familiar with was driven: a scientist and entrepreneur, always chasing the next invention that would make him a millionaire and silence the “never-good-enough” inner voice of the boy who grew up, literally, on the wrong side of the tracks. Other than the occasional memorable bout of paternal discipline, he left the child-rearing to our mother while he focused on business and loomed large but inaccessible in the periphery of domestic life.
It wasn’t until Alzheimer’s slowly and decisively shut the door on his ambitions that our dad was transformed—in the best way. Stripped of his dreams, his car, home, health, and even his wife of 63 years, New Dad emerged with gradual acceptance, twinkle-eyed humor, and a buoyant love for family that rose like a submerged beach ball, impossible to keep down.
Tragedy and redemptive beauty sometimes walk side-by-side. When all else is lost, love remains, triumphant.