From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Long-Distance Vitamins

Sweetest melodies are those that are by distance made more sweet.

William Wordsworth

We arrived at the hospital to find Dad exhausted and weak, but his smile was as sure as ever. It was another bout of pneumonia. My husband and I stayed with him for the weekend but had to return to our jobs by Monday morning. Local relatives would see that Dad got home from the hospital, and they would look in on him regularly and prepare his meals. They would make sure he got his daily medicine and take him to his doctor appointments. But I longed to be able to let him know that we cared, too, even when we weren’t with him.

Then I remembered a family tradition I initiated when our children were small. When leaving their grandparents’ home after a visit, each child would hide a love note in the house for their grandfather or grandmother to find after we were gone. They hid notes in the cereal box, to be poured into their bowls the next morning. They’d tuck a note under a hairbrush, in a deck of cards, next to the phone or even in the microwave. For days after our departure, their grandparents would smile as they discovered these reminders of our love.

So as I tidied Dad’s kitchen and made up a bed for him downstairs in the living room, I began writing notes. Some were practical. “Dad, I froze the casserole that was in the fridge so it wouldn’t spoil.” Some expressed my love. “Dad, I hope you sleep well in your new bed.” Most notes were downstairs where he would be confined for several weeks until he regained strength, but one note I hid upstairs under his pillow. “Dad, if you have found this note, you must be feeling better. We are so glad!”

While others cared for Dad’s day-to-day needs, we, of course, would stay in touch by phone. But our notes were a tangible reminder of our love and concern for him during this recovery period. Just like his medicines boosted him physically, these “emotional vitamins” would boost his spiritual health.

Several weeks later, in one of our regular phone calls, I asked Dad how he was doing. He said, “I’ll tell you how I’m doing. I just found your note under my upstairs pillow!”

Emily Chase

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