88: The Lucky One

88: The Lucky One

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Lucky One

To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter.


My parents lived on a quiet country road. After almost fifty years of marriage, my mom passed away from a rare cancer, leaving Dad, a trim carpenter and part-time farmer, extremely lonely — with no one to talk to, no more home-cooked meals, and no idea how to take care of a household.

My husband and I had just moved next door. At first, I assumed Mom’s domestic duties, but gradually coaxed Dad into doing his own laundry. He enjoyed telling everyone he knew about his pink “tighty whities” that he’d washed in hot water along with a red flannel shirt.

Next, I suggested we concentrate on cooking, but Dad never got further than using the microwave. Instead, he ate with us a few nights a week and took home leftovers.

Juggling the demands of a job, husband, kids, grandkids, housework, and a lonesome father kept me busy. Every evening, no sooner had I walked in the door from work than I received the inevitable phone call — Dad just calling to chat.

Once in a while, when I had the day off from work and lots of chores to do, I kept the garage doors closed to hide from his watchful eye.

Dad was on his own during deer season while my husband and I went to our cabin in the woods. We’d planned on staying the entire week, but my better half cut his hand to the bone one evening while skinning the ten-point buck he’d shot. Since his injury required stitches, we came home a few days early.

The next morning, after going through a stack of mail and newspapers, I told my husband I needed to attack the mountain of dirty clothes we’d brought home.

My next sentence came out of nowhere. “Think I’ll call Dad and see if he needs anything from town.”

A look of surprise crossed my husband’s face. “What happened to playing catch-up from deer camp?”

“That can wait. I need to see Dad.”

Dad beamed when I walked in the back door of his quiet kitchen just as he’d finished his bowl of cold cereal.

“Thought you guys weren’t coming home until the weekend.”

After I explained what happened, he jumped at my offer to shop and rode along. First stop, the hardware store for a fluorescent light-bulb, and then the bank. And oh, could we pick up milk and bread at the grocer? I chuckled, wondering what he’d think of to lure me over the next day.

Another sense of urgency sent me back to his house that same afternoon. With Thanksgiving the following week and family gatherings still held at our parents’ home, I needed to do some serious housecleaning.

Dad was looking forward to the huge banquet.

Trying to be heard over the vacuum cleaner, he hollered, “I’m glad you learned how to make your mother’s rolls.”

As I continued cleaning, my eyes teared, recalling the week before Mom had passed away. She’d called early one morning and offered to teach me how to prepare her signature yeast rolls, a family favorite.

As I finished cleaning and trudged outside to leave, Dad came to the door and called out, “Thanks for all you do for me.”

Dad’s sister, who visited him almost daily, phoned the next morning. Her voice faltered as she delivered the devastating news.

“Your dad passed away during the night. He must’ve had a heart attack.”

Absorbing the sobering truth, my first thought was, What if I hadn’t gone to see him?

Tears fell as my mind replayed the last twenty-four hours, especially the way Dad’s face lit up at my unexpected visit. I will be forever grateful for the inner voice that guided me to his doorstep the previous morning, giving me one final, precious dad-daughter memory.

On the fifth anniversary of his passing, loving thoughts of Dad flooded my mind. He was in every childhood recollection, whether it was coaching my softball team, teaching me and my siblings to play ping pong, or taking us fishing, sleigh riding, ice skating, and bowling. As I walked into the family room, my eyes were drawn downward. I almost stepped on a card that had sat on the bookshelf for years, but somehow landed open on the floor.

As I bent to pick it up, I spotted Dad’s scrawled handwriting. “Thanks for all you do. I am so lucky.”

“You’re wrong, Dad,” I said out loud. “I’m the lucky one.”

~Alice Muschany

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