He wrapped me in a tight hug, really not what I was used to from my usually stoic father, the tears welling up in his eyes before pulling me to him.  The air around us was cold, yet it felt warm in the afternoon sun, one of those nice February days that comes along some central Illinois Februaries.

“I’m sorry, son, and I love you.  I hope you know that.  I have needed to tell you that for years.”

It had been years, probably ten or more, yet the weight of the mistake stayed with my father.  Indeed it had been a mistake, one of those times when stress and fatigue caught up with us both.

I rubbed my chin as dad let go of me, fighting my own tears.  The words to say were not coming to me, an unusual occurrence.  There is a little scar on my chin, the smoothness reminded me it was there and I knew how it had gotten there.  Dad had swung at me that night ten years prior, missed with his fist, but the watch on his wrist had dug into my chin as it passed.

“I know, Dad.  I have known.  You didn’t really need to say that, but I am glad you did.  I love you too.”

Miriam and the kids hugged my parents, loaded themselves in our car, and we drove away as my parents waved at us from their front porch, the tears in their eyes clearly visible.

The thing is, Dad really didn’t need to say those words to me.  It wasn’t that the apology wasn’t appreciated, it just was that I was just as wrong as he was that night.  In reality, my father hasn’t made enough “mistakes” with me to warrant remembering any of them.  That he needed to say he was sorry like that says a lot about the man — because that incident was the closest he had ever come to what could be considered a mistake with me.  His apology was one of many examples of character my father has demonstrated to me over the years.

My dad is one of the best.  Through my dad’s example I have learned about the importance of loyalty, faith, love, and trust.  Dad loves God in a simple way, one that has showed me that believing is enough.  He loves my mom, needs her, depends on her and has stayed with her, their bond strong through years of perseverance.  I have watched my dad build houses, work long hours at his job yet have the energy to give to his family when he got home.  My dad values people, wants to know something about the people he meets, always finds something to admire in them.  I am my dad that way.. and I like that.  Dad coached my baseball teams, stuck up for me when I needed him to, punished me fairly and taught me what was right.  I always have known what he expects from me, yet he never has demanded anything from me.  To this day, my father is one of the strongest people that I know — physically, mentally, and morally.

Tonight, I am a bit scared.  Dad had a heart attack last Thursday, the second one he has had.  It seemed mild.  Mom talked him into going to the hospital after he started experiencing discomfort while climbing a ladder (his fifth trip of the day).  He was admitted for observation at the hospital while tests were performed.  Mom called Saturday.  Dad was going to need open heart surgery, a triple bypass. Three arteries were 60 to 85 percent clogged.

OK.  Open heart surgery is not as big of a deal as it once was.  While we weren’t quite expecting to hear the news, we knew that a successful surgery would be productive and chances of a good recovery were favorable.  The doctors were to meet with my parents today, tell them what to expect and then the surgery would be performed this week.

That meeting did not go well.  Dad has a large calcified clot in his heart.  There is too much risk to perform heart surgery.

Thus my fear.  The doctors are not painting a rosy picture.  They are preparing us for the worst.  Suddenly, I go from having a strong and healthy father to one who may not be around much longer.  While I am not afraid for him to go, I am not ready for him to leave yet either.  Believing in God the way my family does, we look forward to what is on the other side.  But I am not ready to be without an earthly father yet.  I still need him, need the wisdom and friendship he gives me.

And so I wait.  I’m not sure what to do.  Mom says to wait, don’t come down to visit yet, take that mountain bike trip I planned with the guys this week.  That’s hard to do when I don’t know if something is going to happen.