Sometimes I get grumpy and say things I shouldn’t say.
Today I woke up from my nap and told my dog to “Step off!” He was chewing on my pinkie toe and I let him have it.
“Step off, mutt!”
I know. I shouldn’t have cast disparaging comments on his lineage, but that’s what happens when I don’t watch my words.
I did make it up to Max. “I’m sorry Max. I think you’re the finest pup around and I don’t even care that we have no idea who your parents are…”
He seemed okay, but you know, once you put those words out there….
My dad and I shared a lot of words over the years. Some were good, some not so much. After all, I was a mushy gooey girl, he was a stoic engineer. I was a wild, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants teenager, he was a focused and analytical dad. My room looked like a minor hurricane had swept through while he had a drawers for every single tool he owned—each labeled and in alphabetical order. By the time I drove him crazy by eloping in my 20s, our relationship was more than a little rough around the edges.
I suppose we could have stayed there.
I suppose we could have let old words sit in the air and fog up our view of one another.
I’m so thrilled that we didn’t. Oh, not that cleaning things up went perfectly. There were times I disagreed with him, and he with me. But as I grew a little older, I began to appreciate the many things he did so well. And he was able to see me beyond my childhood goofiness and teenage insanity.
Two years ago, my dad died in a sailing accident.
Eighteen hours before he died, he left a message on my cell phone.
Here it is: Final Words
I have that message on my I-tunes playlist and today it came on as I walked my dogs. My dad’s final words to me were ones of encouragement, and they encourage me still today.
I was telling a family friend about my nephew Caleb yesterday. How he was 17 years old when he died in a car accident, twelve days after my dad died in a drowning. He looked at me with eyes wide, “I’m 17,” he said.
I could see the wheels turning.
We have no idea when our time will come. We have no idea what our final words will be. For me I just pray I don’t go out saying things like, “You mutt!” to those I care about.
Instead, I pray that I remember how words can either destroy or build up, cut or heal… and how they linger either way.
Thanks for the voicemail, Dad. It made my day. Again.