Today is Greg’s birthday, and we had this day’s journey planned out. We both cleared the day, work wise, and intended to drive to Arkansas, or Springfield, or perhaps even Tulsa, to spend the day doing whatever he wanted to do. There was sure to be a stop at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore…and a steak dinner at a good restaurant, or whatever type of celebratory meal he wanted. It was his special day….and I wanted to gift him with a day of fun. That’s the way it was supposed to go. The reality was, Greg became afflicted with a severe toothache over the weekend. The pain changed all his plans for Saturday and Sunday, and ultimately, changed today’s as well. He has an appointment at the dentist office in the morning, however today, rather than a road trip and fun, Greg’s birthday became one of resting and taking meds to relieve his throbbing jaw.
One thing that Greg and I both have learned in recent years is to go with the flow. It wasn’t the day that I had planned, but it became the day that was meant to be. How do I know? It is the day we were given. Greg’s body was alerting him to an issue that needs to be taken care of. He listened. Rather than get frustrated by the turn of events, he made an appointment and settled in to let the meds do their work, which made him sleep most of the day. When he stirred this afternoon, I got him a meatloaf dinner from Cracker Barrel, instead of steak, and holding to a tradition that began with daughter Elissa, I got him a birthday treat. He opted for a Frosty Twist, from Wendy’s. Apparently, his tooth isn’t sensitive to cold, at least!
And as I have done with the other family birthdays this year, I’ve thought about Greg and his journey this past year. I’m recognizing a pattern here. Every year is significant. Every year has its joys and challenges and its opportunities for growth. That has certainly been true for this man as well. Since his last birthday, Greg has been present for two of his children as they married their sweethearts: Elissa married Josh last November and Nathanael and Megan wed in May. In December he was there as his youngest, Adriel, walked across the stage at Crowder College, to receive her nursing diploma. He stood before her, both of them with tears in their eyes, as I pinned the nurse’s pin to her white scrub top.
Greg is a caring and compassionate dad, very present in the lives of his kids and grandkids. Although often preferring to be the quiet person in the back of the room, his presence is strong and the children look to their dad when they need that strength. When he speaks, they listen, not because they fear him, but because they love and respect him and find value in what he shares. He gives of himself to his family, so he’s there when repairs need to be made, and rooms painted, when grandson Dayan needs practice driving or there are grandchildren performing, receiving awards or playing sports.
Greg extended that compassion and love to his dad, in the final months of his earthly journey. He had dreaded the loss of his aging father, the last member of his original family. And yet, when the time came, Greg stepped up in ways that he never would have imagined, caring for his dad, spending precious time with him, holding him when he was in pain and confused. He walked with his father until he couldn’t walk with him any farther, offering that quiet strength, and released him to go on, into eternity, when that time came. Greg spoke at his dad’s memorial service, something he never thought he could do, and the words were a beautiful tribute to a remarkable man, a father who surely heard those words and felt so proud of his son.
Two years ago, while on a trip together in Eureka Springs, AR, Greg stopped to look at a motorcycle for sale, parked near the highway. As we drove away, leaving that particular bike behind, we discussed Greg’s desire for a motorcycle. He had one years ago, when I first met him. The past few years, he has talked about owning one again. As we drove, he shared what he wanted in a bike…the size, the build, the price….and what owning and riding a bike would mean to him. And then, he let go of the outcome, released his wish and stayed open to what would arrive. This past summer, making a spur of the moment phone call to a local motorcycle shop, Greg found his bike. It was exactly what he had described, two summers ago in AR, right down to the price.
It takes courage, I think, to climb back onto a motorcycle, after 40 years of not owning one. However, gathering that courage, and spurred on by the desire to ride, Greg began to bike again. For him, there is great freedom in hopping on his bike and taking off, no real destination in mind, just him and the bike and an open road. His joy is evident and those trips are fun, and good for his soul. And that is really what life is about….courage and freedom, and living from the heart’s desire….and not being in a hurry to reach a destination but finding joy in the journey. Happy birthday, Greg. When you feel better, we will go celebrate. Happy travels, as you head down the road on your bike, the wind behind you and endless possibilities before you. May joy accompany you.