Zig Warhide was perhaps the most obstinate, cranky, critical human being I’d ever met. But in the early morning hours of September 8, 2000, this man changed my life.
Working in a retirement community, I dealt with people who appreciated the many activities that enriched their lives. Then there were others who struggled with a profound sense of loss.
I still remember the call light that went on at 2:30 a.m. in room 257. “Mr. Warhide,” I groaned. He must have fallen again. I didn’t know why he had to be so stubborn when it came to using his walker. Stepping off the elevator and sprinting down the hall to his room, I knocked on the door.
I heard a feeble voice say, “Call my daughter.”
Feeling a sense of urgency, I opened the door with my passkey. Mr. Warhide lay curled on the floor. I knelt beside him and grabbed a pillow for his head. “Where do you hurt?”
“I don’t want you!” he snapped. “I want my daughter!”
Hurrying back down the hall, I wondered why Roberta hadn’t shut her father out of her life. She had ample reason to. When I entered the office, I didn’t need to check for Roberta’s telephone number. This was the fourth time in two weeks that her father had fallen in the wee hours of the morning. I had her number memorized.
After dialing, I heard a drowsy voice answer, “Hello?”
“This is Shelley calling from Highland Ridge Retirement Community. Your father has fallen again, and he asked me to call you.”
“Is he in pain?”
“I think his pride is what hurts the most,” I said.
“I’ll be right there.” I heard the phone click.
Within minutes, Roberta arrived, and we rushed to her father’s room. She leaned over him and asked, “Where’s your walker?”
Mr. Warhide bristled. “I told you before, I have no use for it!”
“Let’s try to get him up,” I suggested.
Roberta sighed. “No. I want him checked out at the ER.”
I called 911. Paramedics arrived at the scene and transported Mr. Warhide to the hospital. Roberta stayed behind to collect her father’sprescriptions, knowing the doctor would need them.
As I filled out an incident report, Roberta came down to sign out. “You sure are a considerate daughter,” I said. “Your father’s tongue can be sharp at times.”
Roberta smiled. “He’s actually my stepfather.”
My jaw dropped.
Roberta continued. “When Zig married my mother, my brother, Ted, and I thought we were doomed, because he never minced words. But after a few months, we fondly called him Daddy Warhide. He provided for us as if we were his blood children, making sure we had plenty to eat, nice clothes to wear, and a good education. Though he made only $35 a week during the Great Depression, he saved enough to send me to law school and my brother to medical school.”
“He must have been really good at saving money to live here,” I marveled. “This is a pretty expensive place.”
“Daddy Warhide doesn’t have any money,” Roberta responded. “My brother and I vowed we would take care of him as long as he lived. This is our payback for love.” She turned and disappeared out the door.
“Forgive us … as we also have forgiven” (Matt. 6:12).
Roberta’s words acted as a wake-up call for me. I knew too much time had elapsed since I had spoken to my own father. When I got home that morning, I decided to put all my feelings of resentment aside. Though Daddy and I hadn’t talked in more than a dozen years, I realized how desperately I wanted a relationship with him before reconciliation became impossible.
My hand trembled when I dialed his number. My step-mother answered the phone with a cheerful greeting.
“Virginia,” I said. “This is Shelley. Is Daddy there?”
She hesitated for a moment then said. “Your father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is confined to a nursing home. At this stage, I doubt he would know you.”
A knot formed in my throat. “I’m sorry it’s taken me so many years to get over my anger. But after he left .…”
“I know it’s been difficult,” answered Virginia. “If you’d like, you can send him a card. I’ll make sure he gets it.”
A moment later we said good-bye. Myrtle Beach was almost 1,200 miles away. But I was determined to make amends with my father.
Two weeks later, I stepped off a plane and took a cab to the nursing home. When I walked into Daddy’s room, he sat in a wheelchair. His face reflected the emptiness I had witnessed so many times in my profession. His gnarled hands were folded, and he gazed out the window.
He turned, and I saw recognition fill his eyes. “Shelley?”
As we voiced a need for mutual understanding, I realized forgiveness can be a two way street. When our visit ended, I left the retirement home with a warm glow. My life and my father’s life were forever changed by the legacy of a man known as Daddy Warhide.
Shelley Anne Richter achieved her dream of being a published writer in 1993. She’s a people person and enjoys public speaking.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Mature Living. To subscribe click here or on the cover image.