I’ve been thinking about Bob on this leap year day. Bob is my husband’s dad, and it would have been his 76th birthday today.
I only met Bob once but I still think about some of the things he told me about his son, now my husband. He told me how he took Jimmie hunting once and that as they went along, Jimmie began to walk slower and slower. He finally figured out that Jimmie did not want to go hunting – that he did not want to kill any animals. Made me smile. Bob realized that his son had a compassionate heart towards animals and it was ok with him.
The second thing I remember about Bob was his comments about my reaction to the horses he kept. Bob built his dream wood home on top of a hill in a forest in Brittish Columbia, Canada, and the horses were kept in a sloping field that went away from the house.
I had tagged along for the feeding but when the two horses who came a bit too close for my comfort, I quickly made my way back into the pickup truck. “The key with wild animals, ” said Bob, “is to treat them gently. Don’t be afraid of them.” I knew he was talking about the horses, but it was almost as if he were trying to tell me how to get along with his son.
The last evening we spent with Bob, I asked him if I could pray for him and he said yes. The following morning we said good bye, started driving away and suddenly Jimmie slams on the brakes, jumps out and runs back to hug his dad one more time and with heartfelt sobs, he tells him, “I love you, dad.”
We both cried as we drove away on that snowy day. Bob had Lou Gehrig’s disease, and we didn’t know if we would see him again. And we didn’t. He died shortly before Christmas that year.
On a leap year day on Bob’s birthday, 12 years ago, we found out we were pregnant with our first child.. And so for these reasons, leap years are dear to me.
For years after saying goodbye to Bob, I wondered why I had such a hard time saying those three words, “I love you,” to my own father. We aren’t the hugging and expressive kind of a family and yet still I wanted to be able to tell my dad that I loved him.
It took years of having my heart healed by my Heavenly Father, of learning to forgive and let go, and finally a few years ago I was able to tell my father that I loved him.
I’m thankful for the example that my husband set for me. As painful and broken a relationship he had with his father, in the end, Jimmie loved his dad and was able to tell him, and as I found, there is a great peace that comes with that. You can never regret saying I love you to those who mean the most to you.