by Lisa M. Roberts
- To inspire me as I work, I surround myself
with bits and pieces of encouragement that decorate my home office
and beyond. There is the artwork of my four children, taped haphazardly
on the wall behind my desk. There are special thank-you notes
from visitors of EP tacked on the windowsill directly behind
my monitor. There are books written by colleagues and contacts
that line the office shelves.
- But there is no other work of
inspiration as monumental as the swingset in full view of my
home office window. To me, it is a testament of faith that reaches
beyond time, distance and generation. It grounds me at the same
time it pulls me forward, through every season, through every
- I remember the morning my father
began to build it. Two years ago this spring, he pulled up my
driveway with a load of lumber on top of his car. As my mother
and I unloaded packages of food, clothes and other what-not that
always arrived with my parents during their bi-weekly, three-day
visits, my father unloaded the lumber and tools he had brought
for this day's work.
- As custom, my dad labored from
early in the morning until late afternoon, with breaks only for
glasses of water, and everyone stayed clear of his way. Only
once, before getting started, did he call anyone towards him.
"Where do you want it?" he asked me, his eyes illuminating
with possibility. We then began a lengthy discussion on the logistics
of the backyard -- the nearby trees, the view from the street,
the proximity to the house. But ultimately the location was made
based on my ability to keep an eye on the children as I worked
in my office and they played outside.
- Relatively speaking, the job
was a breeze for my dad. He had twenty years of construction
work behind him. He had built two homes: one from scratch, in
the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains, and the other in Long Island,
after his year-round home nearly burned to the ground. He was
also every relative and friend's favorite renovator and handiman,
finishing basements for one, turning attics into bedrooms for
another. He applied his innate sense of architectural design,
practical hands-on knowledge and playful imagination to every
project. And throughout my life, there seemed always to
be another project before him.
- That day my kids and I watched
as the sticks of wood became ladders to climb up, beams that
held swing chains, and a gate that formed a forte. By evening,
four pairs of legs and arms were swinging and pushing and twirling,
in a celebration of life and love and joy that only children
with a Grandpa like theirs could arouse.
- But my father had only one year
to watch his grandchildren enjoy the swingset he had built for
them. On the eve of Father's Day last spring, he was hospitalized
with a severe shortness of breath. We all thought that he fell
ill because he had been consumed in a whirlwind of physical activity
just two weeks before. This time last year, his Long Island home
had been due for an exterior paint job, and from early in the
morning until late afternoon, day after day, he had climbed his
well-worn ladder to prep and then to paint the entire house.
When that job was completed, he took a break for two days and
drove himself and my mother to the Poconos to give that
home a final coating too. Feeling drained and overworked at sixty-seven
years old, he thentook his old ladder and broke it into pieces,
knowing he could never take on the job of exterior house painting
- But as it turned out, it was
not overexertion that he was suffering from. Only a few days
after Father's Day last year, our family was delivered the fatal
news that my father had "malignant mesothelioma" --
cancer of the lining of the lung, caused by his persistent exposure
to asbestos thirty years ago when he was in the construction
business. There would be no more projects, no more labor, no
more work of any kind. In a matter of weeks, his lungs and legs
would fill with water, and it would become an extraordinary effort
just to walk across the room to brush his teeth.
- Days before he died, and not
knowing that he would so soon, my father wrote a letter in his
recliner chair that he was by then confined to. It was addressed
to his brothers and sisters (he was the youngest of nine, all
but one still alive) and their children, who were gathering at
our annual family reunion. To me, his letter represents an inner
strength that matched -- in fact has always surpassed -- his
- To My Dear Family and Friends,
- I want to thank you all for
your constant prayers and deep faithful support. I know that
through all our prayers, together we can achieve God's wishes,
whatever they may be. "Thy will be done."
- I ask you all to keep up your
prayers and support. I need all of you to help me through this
time in my life. I promise that if you continue to pray for me,
I will hang in there until my very last thread of hope.
- I love you all very much and
leave you to ponder on one of my favorite gems.
- Your Brother, Your Uncle and
- "I Believe in the Sun
Even When it is Not Shining
I Believe in Love
Even when I am Alone
I Believe in God
Even when He is Silent."
- (--Author Anonymous)
- Today, when I look out the window
and see my children's swingset, I am filled with a faith of my
own. I believe that the love for both work and family canmerge
to create wonderful things. I believe in pursuing the line of
work that God calls me to, even if it may somehow put me at risk.
And I believe in my father's love, his presence and his sparkle
of possibility, even if I can no longer see the projects he is
working on now.
- Lisa Roberts is the mother of four,
owner of The
Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family &
A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business
(Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for
purchase at EP