Aging in America


My Father who is 89 now is ‘old school’ and on top of that English!  Very proper and has firm beliefs in what is right and what is wrong.  Born in the middle 1920’s he came from the Churchill family that migrated from Nova Scotia to Tacoma, Washington.  Youngest of the 6 children, he had 4 sisters that babied him all of his life.

His Brother was a protestant pastor all of his life.  I am painting the picture of what era’s my Father was raised in and lived in all of his life.  All of them very staid in some ways coupled with the most outrageous and spontaneous sense of humor found only in the English. Dry humor they call it.  


The Highest Honor

I remember many stories of living with my proper Father that to my teenage ears was hysterically funny and odd to say the least.   I was moving into rock n roll and the ‘rebellion’ years so it was even more pronounce when living next to my Dad.   For example one day my girl friend and I were sitting on the front stoop talking trash about everyone we knew.  We were using words like butts and boobies.  Those were the words for those parts of the body.  Finally my Father could not stand it anymore and came out to the porch, drew his shoulders straight back and announced to two 16-year-old girls: “Ladies.  It is buttocks and breasts!”   I mean my girl friend fell straight into the bushes she was laughing so hard.

 Another time I called my Father telling him I would be late coming home for dinner because I was staying with my girl friend who was recovering from an abortion at the YWCA.   There was total silence on the other end of the phone and then my Father blurted out, “Diana!  Have you gone bereft of ALL reason??”   Since I didn’t really know what the word “bereft’ meant……..I didn’t answer but I knew I had displeased him immensely and raced home as fast as I could.  

However, in my 40’s this wonderful, old-world traditions, standards and deep sense of honor ended up making me feel more loved than at any point in my life.  I had driven up to Seattle from San Diego to spend time with my dying Mother.  Of course I was also able to spend time with Dad during the visit.  (they had been divorced for years).  On the day I was going to start driving home, I stopped by my Father’s house to say a quick goodbye early in the morning.   He walked out of his house to talk to me in my car.  I was startled to see him dressed in a suit jacket, tie and dress pants.   I said, “Dad, are you going somewhere?  Why are you all dressed up?”

 He looked at me with that one-eyebrow-raised look that said “To anyone smart to think this through  it is quite obvious why  and answered,  ” I am saying goodbye to my daughter.  Why would I do that in my gardening clothes?   I love you and honor you more than that.”   My jaw dropped and my eyes filled with tears.  I was speechless.    My Dad dressed up for ME!   To say goodbye to me……no other reason.   A short 10 minute goodbye in a driveway warranted a suit and tie.  To show his love and honor.   I drove away with my head spinning.   Powerful stuff; this honoring people.   His dress code to say goodbye to me was more powerful and full of more love than any long speech.  Words could not hold a candle to this amazingly simple act.  

     Dressed up as if he were greeting a very special and important person.  To him, I guess         he was!





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