FIT@50 / week 81
FIT@50 / week 79
Tough Guy, Soft Words:
This week has been a trial. Liliana Hart and I received the phone call every child dreads. My dad had suffered two strokes and a heart attack. He was in the hospital and I should head home immediately.
Problem was, we’re 8 hours away. I drove with the burden of racing life’s clock ticking against me. To tell you I didn’t keep it a bit over the posted speed limit would be to not tell you the truth.
We screeched into the hospital parking lot late that night and rushed to his bedside. Unresponsive, but alive. I’d come in under the wire, but the race to life’s end was still running.
The next day, along with my brothers and sisters, we made the decision to remove life support and entrust him to hospice. The doctor assured us he wasn’t going to wake up and if he did, it would only be incoherent glimpses.
Contrary to their best guesses, my dad woke up three times that day, and with great clarity to speak with us in short replies. It allowed us to share a precious last few moments with him.
I believe God allows mercy for both family and the dying to make peace before their passing. It was a blessing to experience those moments.
My dad was a tough, silent guy from Philly. Typical of his generation, the son of an Italian immigrant, he showed his love for family by providing more than by speaking. I can say that never once did my dad say he loved me.
It wasn’t the way in his time, but I knew he loved me. He was fiercely loyal to my mom and all 7 of us kids.
This week in his last moment of clarity, his eyes were open and he was responding to our questions and comments. Dementia had robbed him of most memories. But he was with us.
We all told him we loved him, and each hoped to hear him repeat those precious three words. But he didn’t—he was a tough, silent man, who showed love instead of expressing it. We all laughed that he was stubborn to the end.
Then one of his grandchildren asked if he wanted us to pray. He said yes.
Holding his hand, I pressed my face near his to hear that sweet, innocent one-word reply to an offer for genuine prayer—Yes.
This was the most soft-hearted word I’ve ever heard him speak. It would appropriately be his very last spoken word. I was able to lead my family in prayer, while my dad watched and listened with a gentle reassurance.
This week at his funeral, as a line of former students and football players lined up with community and family friends, a gentleman offered his condolences and spoke to Liliana and I about how much he enjoyed the way we share our lives on Facebook. Then his words struck me as he leaned in closer.
“I can’t believe such soft words come from a rough, tough police chief.”
This good guy could’ve never know how significant his words were. Unbeknownst to him, he had just delivered God’s message. It was a message that I needed to hear.
I’ve always delighted in looking like my dad, taking after him in so many characteristics and mannerisms. I’m happy to emulate his love for family and wife, but always wanted to make sure I was more vocal with the way I felt.
I understand the value of listening instead of speaking, but I’ve also tried hard to speak when appropriate with words that have meaning.
Like my dad’s final “Yes” to prayer, I think I’ve also become a tough guy, with soft words.
Chief Scott Silverii, Ph.D.
FIT@50 / week 76
I’m prompting Max to prep for bed. While it takes a little longer, he eventually gets there. I finally warned him with a stern wag of my finger to wrap up the tub time. I came back in his bathroom after sorting his school clothes and he had a head of hair slathered with Old Spice body wash.
I grunted, “No. Not there.”
He proudly continued to rub it over his head. It never registered with him that what he was using was body wash and not shampoo.
“See.” He proudly held a bright yellow hand towel up and ran it through his hair to rinse it. “I wash.”
I dropped to my knees next to the tub in half prayer / half guilt for over reacting to the infamous Old Spice mix up. The thing was, it wasn’t a mix up, and it wasn’t a big deal. It was Max doing his best on his own to scrub up for another day at school. He was not only proud of his accomplishment, but also boasted a savory scent of grandfatherly masculinity.
After he was tucked in and off to sleep, I joined Liliana Hart in the living room to catch up on writing. I began to think about what I said to him, “Not there.” With my one year anniversary of my retirement as Chief of Police, I mused over that comment.
What if I’d listened to that same comment at times in my life? Admittedly, there were occasions that I should’ve known and heeded the warning, but we’ll save those for another less-public forum. I’m talking about people in your path, that for the sake of conformity or custom, tried to divert your direction in life.
What if I listened to the “voice of reason” when I wanted to enroll in graduate school in my forties after having been away from college for twenty years. What if I listened to the “friends” who thought I should’ve stayed in my position before becoming Chief of Police because it was safe and protected. What if I listened to a room full of “detractors” laughing at my first attempt to publish a book, and not because of the content, but that I’d dedicated it to my best friend who had always encouraged me during graduate school although he’d dropped out in eighth grade.
Finally, what if I listened to myself when God said it was time to retire. He didn’t mince words. It was clear, but I rationalized by looking at retirement and saying,
‘Not there,” for almost a year. What if He’d listened to me and said, “Okay, you’re on your own.”
While there are wonderful people offering wise counsel, do yourself a favor and weigh what they have to offer by what is right, what is important and what is yours. Even if the person you should ignore is you.
Being FIT@50 means I get to sit here in peace without the world’s problems being my problems, and Max gets to go to class with magnificent smelling hair.
Chief Scott Silverii, Ph.D.
I’m proud to say that I served with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office for 21 years before taking the Chief of Police position in Thibodaux. What a wonderfully generous act of kindness shown to the Dallas Police Department.
We are so grateful to the citizens of Lafourche Parish in Louisiana and their Sheriff’s Office for raising more than $50,000, which was donated to the Assist The Officer Foundation and the Dallas F…