“Step off!” I say…

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.

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4 Responses to “Step off!” I say…

  1. Thank you for sharing your father’s final message. It was one of encouragement. You are very fortunate to have that and are able to listen to it whenever you want. You have been an inspiration to me as I attend Divorce Care and can see the transition you have made in your life. Thank you for your honesty in sharing your story. I know your father is proud of you!

  2. Alice says:

    Choking back a few tears here… Beautifully said, Elsa. Again.

  3. Bev says:

    When Hillary was growing up we never allowed bad words or hurtful words. While I was in charge of Website childcare, one evening this was our lesson. First we talked about different hurtful words. I had purchased the little travel sized toothpast tubes earlier in the week. We placed a paper towel in front of each child, then gave them a tube. Their instructions were to get all of the toothpaste out onto the papertowel. When they were done, they were instructed to put it back into the tube. It was a visual for them that once a hurtful word comes out of your mouth you can’t put it back in. I don’t know if they remember that lesson, but I know it’s still vivid in my mind.

    I know you miss your Dad. It doesn’t seem possible that he’s been gone for two years. My mother was diagnosed with a rare rectal cancer last year. The cancer is gone but she is still not back to herself yet. And my Dad is suffering from beginning stages of dementia. We’re never ready to let them go. Hugs to you as your memories of your father and Caleb are so near right now.

  4. That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Three weeks before my 23-year-old-son died, he announced to me that he knew where he was going when he died. Why would a young man be talking about dying at the age of 23?? He had no idea he would be hit by a car while riding a motorcycle, but God knew. And He allowed my son to leave me that message, which I hold onto because it gives me so much hope. Without a doubt, I know I will see him again because he told me where he was going and that we’ll be together.

    I’m approaching the 13th anniversary of Brian’s death on 8/24, although there are days when it feels like it just happened yesterday.

    Words are so important. Thank you for the reminder.

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