I’d been imagining this moment for months. Finally it was here. The big reveal. “Dad, you are going to love this,” I said, swinging open the door to the in-law suite we had spent the winter building off our garage. “Surprise!”
My husband, Jeff, had put down new carpet in the sitting area. The walls gleamed with fresh paint. My college-age daughter, Jess, had added some big potted houseplants. There was a desk for Dad to write at and a comfy leather armchair and matching footstool where he could read his Bible. Perfect! It was March 2019, and I’d flown to Florida days earlier to help Dad drive home to Indiana after his two-month winter vacation. At 93, he wasn’t as comfortable driving long distances anymore, and I was happy for the time together.
Somehow I had managed to keep the secret to myself all those hours in the car. It went back to the promise I’d made to Mom just before she died eight months earlier. “It will be okay. You can go now,” I’d whispered. “I’ll take care of Dad.” Mom’s eyes had met mine, and I knew she understood. God had given me the chance to help Mom pass peacefully. In a way, I felt I owed it to him as much as her to keep that promise.
Mom and Dad lived two hours northeast of us, in Frankfort, Indiana. Dad had been a pastor and church district superintendent. He’d built a rich life there. Even retired, he led a Bible study, visited shut-ins, gardened and nurtured the trees he’d planted on his property. But life without Mom wouldn’t be the same. They’d been married for nearly 70 years. I didn’t want him trying to do everything on his own. That was the beauty of surprising him with the suite. Once he saw it, he’d be won over. And if he moved in with us, I could really be there for him.
“What do you think?” I said. Dad took in the collage of family photos I’d hung on the wall above the chair, the wardrobe waiting for his clothes, the framed picture of Mom on the bookcase.
“It’s beautiful,” Dad said. “But you didn’t do all this for me, did you? The guest room was fine.” His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.
I pushed down a twinge of doubt. It was late, and we were both ex-hausted from the long drive. “Sleep well, Dad,” I said. “We’ll talk more in the morning.”
I slipped into bed beside Jeff. “Thanks for everything,” I said. “The suite looks great.” It had taken some doing to talk Jeff into giving up his office for Dad’s suite. Had it been a mistake? Tired as I was, I lay awake worrying. One day last fall, when I was visiting Dad, he’d mentioned the possibility of downsizing. Had I misread what he wanted?
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