Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fathers Day

Today being the day on which we, here in The States, recognize our Fathers, my thoughts return to one of my life's most significant of moments ... the last moment that Dad and I really communicated. And, I recall how I related that moment to You, My Dear Reader, back on Fathers' Day, 2006. I remember that it took me until 4:33PM, on that day that we recognize as “Fathers’ Day”, to get myself to the point where I could sit at the keyboard and deliver the thoughts that had me looking through tears as I delivered that morning’s newspapers. The source of the tears? An image. A clear recollection of Dad’s eyes on the occasion of that, our last, exchange between each other.

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.
"

John Allston



28 comments:

lime said...

you enabled your dad to free himself toward the end of his life. If not for you would he ever have been able to express such feelings?

you enable others to do the same much earlier on through your nurturing. that's fatherly work. happy father's day, my friend.

CrazyCath said...

Ahhh that is beautiful. This I have not read before but I understand the emotion. Anyone who read my post about my mum knows we too have not communicated this love until later in life - and it is so good when we do.

I am glad you were able to have this relationship with your dad, through your persistence and reminders of the love you had (have) for him. I too have those wordless conversations sometimes with patients as I nurse them, and you are right. Eyes can speak volumes.

John-Michael said...

How wonderfully kind of You, Darling Lime. You just made me feel very good, indeed! Thank you, Sweet Friend, for that generous Gift.

Loving You is such a delight!

John-Michael said...

As Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is quoted as saying, "Ut imago est animi voltus sic indices oculi" (The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter), You have said as well, Dear CathDaughter. And forever grateful I am, for memory of so man beautiful messages, from so many lovely Souls, throughout my lifetime.

Lovingly ...

Sandra Ree said...

I can hardly comment, my tears are blinding what I can see...thank you for this John-Michael...

nitebyrd said...

My father died when I was 7. He died on his 6oth birthday. My father was not a demonstrative man but even after 47 years, I feel his love.

Thank you for a beautiful Father's Day post.

John-Michael said...

My Very Dear new Friend and Gracious Lady, You are most welcome, I am sure. Tears were my companion as I edited and rewrote a good bit of this reflection this morning. To share those tears with a Soul as kind as yours is to know a spiritual companionship that is comforting and encouraging in my life-path.

Thank you Sandra, for being so entirely Lovable.

John-Michael said...

To think of your Father's loss of the ensuing years of celebration of YOU, is a painful and sad loss to contemplate. But then, to consider your loss of all of those years of quiet, and perhaps little-expressed, but well-sensed adoration and affection, is even more painful to me ... as One who does adore and appreciate You, My Darling NiteByrd, from afar. I am truly sorry that this loss is true to you both.

Know, please, that You are genuinely loved ... and gladly.

Just Joni said...

this brings a tear to my eye...life is too short and precious to not embrace that intersection where thoughts are released in voice of sweet emotions of affection...if it is felt, it should be said...and you so graciously enabled your father to express himself...what an emotional moment that must have been...thank you for sharing ~

Happy Father's Day to YOU dear friend ~ sending you LoVe ~

aims said...

Bless you for helping your father through years of pain and his last days as well. You are a wonderful person JM. Wonderful.

And since I don't have one of my own today - Happy Father's Day to you as well. I hope you get the day you hope for.

With Love - Aims

John-Michael said...

Thank You, Darling Joni, You have, once again, blessed me. You do make my Heart happy! And I am so pleased that I can offer a bit of my Self for your release of a few tears of recognition. I am so grateful for all that You are in my life. 'Tis a lovely Gift.

I love You.

John-Michael said...

Life listened to my yearning ... and smiled, as the sweet Present of your Spirit, visits warmth and comfort to my Being. This is what I know to be the wonder of YOU in my life, my Precious Gift of Heaven, Aims.

How I do Love You!

Trixie said...

Happy fathers day to you dear heart.

John-Michael said...

Thank you, Darling Trixie.

Smiling Big whilst Loving You.

Anonymous said...

Dad...I love you...

Silvia

Anonymous said...

Happy Fathers Day, Daddy and to you too John-Michael

John-Michael said...

Bless You, Silvia, My Darling.

I Love You.

John-Michael said...

Thank You, my Anonymous Friend.

Lovingly ...

Judi FitzPatrick said...

john-michael, I found your blog by way of comments you left on Chucka Stone's Random Lunacy post re: Tim Russert. Chucka (aka Jenn) is my daughter.
I have to tell you I have tears in my eyes from what I just read. I don't know you, but grew up in a similar home, plus both of my parents are now gone due to Alzheimer's. I'm going to add your blog to my list so I can come back here often to read you.
Peace, Judi

John-Michael said...

Judi, I am delighted that you let me know that the warm and inviting Spirit between You and Jen (as revealed in her comments on your blog) is between Mom and Daughter. Such fun!

I thank you for your kind generosity and gracious thoughts shared here. Embracing a new Friend is one of Life's greatest pleasures for me.

Namaste

Suldog said...

John-Michael:

Thank you for sharing that. It was lovely and inspiring.

I was very blessed to have a Dad who never hesitated to say "I love you." He usually said it first, as a matter of fact. He passed away 14 years ago today (the 16th.) His wake was on Father's Day of that year.

I've posted something about him today, with photos. I know you usually drop by my place, and I appreciate that a lot, but I'd be especially honored if you'd come over today and enjoy the photos and brief reminiscences.

John-Michael said...

Just your comments on your Dad, Jim, give me an emotional pause. So, as soon as I can marshal my feelings, I am anxious to get over to my favorite ... the SulDog House.

I sure do love You, My Friend, and am very appreciative of your invitation and consideration.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I read this with my own emotions, thinking about my own dad and the relationship I had with him. And I would give anything to have him hold me in his arms and tell me he loves me. But for now, I am happy to communicate with his spirit.

CJ xx

San said...

Beautiful, honest post, John-Michael. You are very right in your acknowledgment that we all too often detach ourselves from our emotions for fear of looking silly or stupid or unbrave. And it takes so much bravery to feel them completely. And it's the only way they can be freed. They have to be felt.

You collaborated in the uncaging of your father's feelings for you--what a beautiful miracle for both of you!

Thank you for this moving story, written with so much freed feeling.

On a more trivial note, I've put my Blogging with a Purpose award on my sidebar and passed it on to a few others. Thank you again for honoring me.

Anonymous said...

Ciao Dad,
you know everytime a visit this page the song brings drops on my eyes...it moves me...thinking about you far, all the love that you have to give, as I have... and those people that have refused it and what we are...it moves me and i feel pity for them..and a lil of a sense of loneliness in this refusal...Ohhh..just noticing the Perfect coomunion between this comment and the post commented...Fathers Day...what else, for me and for you, could be more appropriate!
I love you and thank God to have put you on my way, even if sadness comes when i thik about all the moments that being so far, we miss...
Hugs...overseas

ps. I've decided to change job:the new one is Organizing congress for the Public Administration , and I'd be in charge for all the organization of the events committed...or sth like it...
Silvia

John-Michael said...

I have openly told You, San, My Darling, of some of the aspects of your influence on my Spirit. But I have failed , thus far, to mention the freedom that You enable, by your encouraging and supportive Spirit.

There have been moments when I have been discouraged and weary of Spirit ... and your Voice is the balm that salves my soreness and removes the bruising of many dispiriting causes. It is mighty important to me that I let You know this. And that I, in the tiniest of ways, give You at least a hint of my gratitude.

I surely do Love You.

John-Michael said...

It is such a miraculous Gift that we enjoy ... this unity of Hearts, Souls, and even our lives, My Darling Silvia. And I, too, ache with the loving hurt of distance that separates our hugs of Dad and Daughter. Even as I was speaking with Dav Sunday, I was telling him that Bulgaria seems out of consideration for my new home. And, knowing how much I want to be with You, he said "Yes, but you must still make the trip to be with Silvia." And we both laughed and agreed how happy that moment will be. Thinking of You and the lovely time that he and Heather had with you in Lucca, always gives him joy. And I enjoy so much hearing of it and seeing the admiration of You on his face. This Love that we are blessed with is a marvelous thing that I am so grateful for.

I Love You, My Dearest!

John-Michael said...

Well, Crystal, You might have noticed how long it has taken for me to respond. And to tell You that your words spoke a message of such Longing ... and it is a Longing that I know all too personally ... that I am having difficulty moving my awareness of your yearning aside sufficiently to allow a coherent response ... well ... just sounds a bit lame. But it is, nonetheless true.

All that is my Being is so attuned to that loveliness that is You ... that I ache for You. And I feel so inadequate and helpless in my inability to displace your Hurt with Joy. Even though I 'know' at the head level, how irrational such a thing is ... at the Heart level (from whence my love for you is born), I would, for You, smooth every path, brighten every moment, and replace every sigh with a song. For, You know, Love You, I do.

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