Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 19, 2004
Greatest generation practices true love
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
My folks met in a Brooklyn park 60 years ago. My dad was playing softball. My mother was with friends. On that sunny afternoon they struck up a conversation. They began to date and decided to marry.
But those plans were postponed by the Second World War. Separated for most of four years, they nonetheless maintained the only lifeline open to people in love back then. They wrote letters.
Happily, those letters survive today and tell a story of long distance love. Not an easy love to maintain, but one they nurtured regardless. Ending the war as a Marine captain, my dad came home and they finally married. He became a New York City police officer and detective. She kept busy with the three of us youngsters.
I gather that life was happy, but also a struggle, especially when he decided to go to law school. Through child rearing and tight money, through the move to suburbia and the loss of loved ones, they kept on living out their love.
Here's the recent chapter. Mom underwent what should have been routine surgery. But before his eyes, Dad saw mother collapse. Doctors came quickly, thank God. In the middle of their efforts to save her life, I called the hospital room and my dad told me: "Your mother collapsed.Come quickly."
I have no recollection of the road that day. By the time I arrived, the doctors had brought her back to a modest stability. But we counted our blessings prematurely. As they moved her to cardiac care, she went back into seizure. A second code red was sounded. Again, that team of experts did what never ceases to amaze.
But this time they had one problem they hadn't counted on. It was my Dad. After her first attack, my mom had weakly told my father "please don't leave me." Well, he took her at her word. No doctors or nurses were going to move him. He parked himself within inches of my mom and stood watch as the doctors did their best. And their best was incredible. They brought her back a second time, got her stable and, in time, sent her home.
My father's tenacious loyalty continues. He is her primary caregiver. He's positioned a couch next to her bed so that he can be there in the night. The nurses and therapists they have know that they need to work with the person who guards her with tenderness: her partner, her oldest friend. Her husband.
Recently, after tending to her from dawn, Dad fell asleep at the dining room table. So we let him sleep. I mentioned to Mom that Dad was obviously tired.
She nodded and then said something that will always stay with me. "You know, Jim, we've been through so much in a lifetime together. The war. The children. The tough years. The loss of our parents and brothers and sisters. But after 56 years of marriage I can honestly say, I've never felt closer to your dad than I do now. He has been so caring, so patient, so good."
Tom Brokaw wrote a wonderful book about the generation who fought and won the Second World War. He rightly names them The Greatest Generation. They accomplished amazing things. But I think their greatest feats continue to be lived today. In the faithfulness they share. In the devoted care they offer. In living out promises made so long ago, our folks teach us so much. In their lives, we are so richly blessed.
My dad was a courageous Marine, a dedicated police officer. He was a terrific lawyer and teacher. But, for me, the greatness of his caring at home is a quality that matches or surpasses what we do in our public lives. Loving for the long distance, now that's something to be proud of.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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