My dad was not a Boy Scout which, if you know him, is shocking for many reasons, but none more than there has never been anyone more prepared than him – for anything. His preparedness has sometimes been the butt of some jokes – like when he bought a truckload of toilet paper during the 2008 bird flu outbreak or how he keeps a doomsday backpack of supplies in the garage – you know, just in case.
All jokes aside, no one has benefited more from his purposeful preparedness than me. While he takes an active role in his health and has some good genes when it comes to life longevity, he is already purposefully preparing for me as he ages. So for Father’s Day, I felt it fitting to reflect and share some of his greatest non-financial preparations that he is doing for me.
- Clean out your “treasures” now. My dad called me a few months back and asked me a strange question: “Do you want any of my books?” I laughed and asked if meant to call my sister. I am more of a “podcast/audiobook/ do anything other than reading” kind of gal. But like him, she picks up a book whenever her busy schedule allows her to steal some time for herself. He chuckled as well and then got to the meat of his question. “I realize that when I am gone, as much of a treasure as my book collection is to me, it will be a burden to you and your sister. So, do you want any of my books?” This collection started when he was a boy and continued through his time at Auburn, through seminary, more than 40 years in the ministry, and now into his retirement. These hundreds (if not thousands) of books all contributed to the person he is today. “Just your Bible, Daddy. That’s all I need,” was my answer. But it wasn’t the book that was the gift. It was the preparation and the purposefulness of his gesture by removing a burden that would eventually fall on me and my sister had he not already started the process. When I went back home a few weeks later, there was a noticeable difference in the size of the collection. I can only assume I was not the only one who received that call from him.
- Be transparent with your health. It was Christmas 2010. My dad sat my husband and me down, looked us straight in the eye and, with zero sugar coating, said: “I have prostate cancer and here are the facts. My surgery is scheduled with a doctor I know and trust. Do not Google or WebMD my prognosis, as we will get all of the facts and information specifically from my doctor.” When I look back on that conversation — as sad and shocked as I was by his frankness — his preparation took away so much confusion and uncertainty that can be felt when a loved one is faced with health concerns. He comforted my uncertainty, plus gave me confidence in him and his health that helped prepare me best for his impending health journey. As a quick side note, you’ll be glad to know that not only did he make a full recovery, but about 9 months after surgery he was biking 400 miles through the Four Corners out west with his friends.
- Don’t go entirely paperless. My dad is always shredding something. As a person who makes a concerted effort to never print anything and go paperless whenever possible, I’ve always thought it was a little strange he had so much paper to shred. But I have now found out there is a reason. While he has a password and account information repository that he does his best to update frequently, what if he misses something? In his well-thought-out plan, the longest I could go without being notified via mail of an account or money owed is about three months. As he learned from the death of his own parents, Apple and Gmail are harder to deal with for the deceased than the banks and insurance companies. If all his information is locked up with someone else holding the key, he knows the significant challenge that can be for a loved one. So, paper bills arrive at the house every month, and every month, he shreds last month’s statement and replaces it in the file with the current.
With as much living as my dad is doing these days during his well-deserved retirement, he is also making a concerted effort so that when the time comes, and he is no longer with us, he has done everything in his power to make our lives easier. It seems small (maybe even morbid to some). But to me, a working mom with two small children of my own, I look at it as a gift: a gift of time and thoughtful preparation.
So, Happy Father’s Day to you, Doc! You are one of the best and I am so thankful for you.