As some of you already know, Dad died at 3:05PM, Sunday, 05 May 06. But the image that visited me on that, and again on this Fathers’ Day morning was from a moment when I was massaging Dad’s leg to help him deal with a severe pain spasm. We were, with Linda my sister, in a hospital room and Dad had been suffering terribly with those seizures of abdominal pain. To lessen the pain and reassure Dad that he was not alone in his struggle, I employed a technique learned in assisting the mother of my children with her child-deliveries. (Those of you familiar with the "Lamaze Method" of "natural" childbirth, will recall the employment of "Eflourage" massage.)
As I talked Dad through each spasm and increased the intensity of massage to suit the pain’s demand, Dad looked through the fog of Alzheimer’s power and actually smiled at me in a rare moment of clarity. Though he could not speak, his eyes communicated volumes. Then, as the medications took hold and the intensity of the pain was mitigated, I started to withdraw my hand. Dad grabbed my retreating fingers and squeezed them with a ferocity that demanded attention. Upon looking into his eyes, I saw an eloquence in them that spoke with such unambiguous coherence, that I was abruptly brought to attention, and responded, “I know Dad … Me too.” Again, he smiled … a sweet, calm, and tender smile that, in harmony with his gaze, spoke to my soul. I "heard" his eyes. “I love you too Daddy (I rarely called Dad "Daddy". But it was entirely appropriate in that moment.) … I will be here, and see you tomorrow.” He squeezed an acknowledgment … smiled a pained smile ... then released my fingers.
That was the last time that Dad and I communicated. And it was that face that visited me in on that Fathers' Day in 2006, and again, this morning. So, why tell you about this? Because my life is dedicated to urgently encouraging you to adopt a life practice of recognizing, respecting, honoring, and communicating your deepest emotions to those for whom that communication will have life-enhancing value.
You see, my Dad did not know how to do that. He was raised by a father (his Mom died when he was young) who demanded a denial of all emotion (save anger) and had a cruel disdain for sentiment. Dad never learned how to deal with his emotions. It was only in his last couple of years that he slowly allowed himself to respond to my unrelenting expressions of love for him. Slowly, over a span of three years ... me saying "I love you Dad" with each departure from a visit with him ... "I really do love you Dad" repeated again and again ... and eventual acknowledgments by a slight nod of his head ... then a smile ... and eventually, a "Yeah, me too." Then that one singular moment, in the living room of his home, when he got up out of "his chair," ... crossed the room ... put his arm around me ... ACTUALLY placed his head on my shoulder, and nuzzled his face against my neck, as he whispered, "I love you Son." (I phoned Steven, my brother, upon my arrival back home, related that instant to him ... and we shared sobbing tears of wonder and amazement over the phone. "I would give anything to hear him say that to me" was his response.) Then my intimate communications with my Father culminated with that moment, in hospital, just recounted.
I want more for you, Dear Reader. I want more for those who look to you for instruction in healthy emotional living. I want more for those who have an unceasing hunger for your love and are crippled in their own emotional health by an absence of your assurances of affection. I want this because I lived for sixty years with a dad who had those emotions and sentiments caged within himself and was frustrated and vexed with his inability to release them. Dad would enthusiastically endorse my entreaty, to you, to take all possible measures to “Know Thy [emotional] Self.”
"The only thing you take with you when you're gone ...
is what you leave behind."
is what you leave behind."