A Duty to Delight

“Years ago he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer.  His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him.  Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively.  In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood.  Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, staring at his son, smiling.  Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea.  I read to you, you fall asleep.”  Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes.  But this wouldn’t last long.

Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son.  Bill would catch him and whine, “Now, come on.”  The father would, again, oblige, until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son.  This went on and on, and after his father’s death, Bill  knew that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid …”

Gregory Boyle, “Tattoos on the Heart. The Power of Boundless Compassion.”

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