I got to go up and see my folks again! It was a lovely, lovely time.
I got to spend a lot of time talking with my Dad. He explained a lot about his work and the things he's done and is still trying to finish. We tried to put together a time line of his travels based on dozens of passports. It was funny, fascinating, thrilling, and touching by turns.
I also got to spend some time with my Mom. She's always around, but she tends to leave me some extra time with Dad. We did go off to Mass together each day, and we went to Confession at St. Joseph's, the parish where I spent my late childhood, and where the Emperor and I married.
It is such a strikingly beautiful church - old world stained glass, frescoes, and carved marble! It really formed my sense of beauty, both physical and spiritual. I think there is a special grace, also, in returning to the church which nurtured you. It was a very beautiful, comforting experience.
You may have guessed that a mother of six doesn't go off on weekend visits just because she wants to. My Dad has had Parkinson's for nearly 20 years, and after a long slow decline, things have gotten very difficult, to the point that he can no longer get to Mass. My brother and sister are flying in to see him in a week or so. I am hoping to see him again when I go up over the Christmas break.
My Dad has been packing up for a while now. When I saw him in October, I was impressed by a sense of feverish urgency. He was pushing hard on many fronts: finish the projects that would save more lives, finish the furniture to leave us something tangible, most of all finish making sure we knew how much he loves us.
I never thought I would outlive my Dad. I was quite sure he would not survive my childhood, not because he was sick, or because I was morbid, but because his job, working with bombs was so dangerous. It wasn't just me, my entire family knew what two soldiers in dress uniform meant.
My Dad is now 75. He's been dubbed a National Treasure by the EOD community. He has awards, and a museum being named after him, but that's not what he's proud of. He has the unimaginable record of, with all the people he took with him on hundreds of trips, he brought every single one of them home alive. I asked him once how that was possible, and he told me, "If it looked like it was going to kill some one, I did it."
His motto is "That others may live." And they did, those he brought back, and the many, many thousands of others who were saved by his work. The only surprise has been that he lived, too.