I was writing the ezine for this month, calling it Courageous Conversations after being inspired by Patricia Geller, my friend, colleague, supervisor. I didn’t realize how quickly life would conspire to get me to practice — or have the practice happen around me.
Frankly, the story I’m about to write is less about me. My part of in the story has me playing the role of a chicken s*** and my father the hero. Let me explain.
My 89 year old dad lives with me now. He has his own apartment in the same house, which suits both of us really well. I’m lucky that he’s in good health, sound mind, bright spirit.
That all sounds so good doesn’t it? Well, it is good.
There’s also the psychological underpinning that made for a harder childhood. I don’t want to pin it all on his being Irish, but that certainly had something to do with it. It also had a bunch to do with his growing up in the Depression where no one talked about anything.
Well, growing up with him was hard at times. He wasn’t prone to praise, validation. He was a tough dad, albeit hiding a tender heart. As a kid, though, I didn’t get the tender heart bit. I got the tough, “Don’t do anything unless you do it right” and the ”I’m yelling because it’s the only way you kids listen” parts.
Yesterday I had a bunch of things to do before taking him to church at 4 pm. It’s been a snowy, icy mess here in Boston making it dangerous for my dad to walk.
Just before I was taking my dad to Mass I had a pedicure so I was wearing sandals. (You women will understand….)
I wasn’t late picking my dad up — just not early. My dad is always early.
I called him. He was already outside on the sidewalk, I”m sure anxious as it’s important for him to get to Mass. I got out to help him into the car. He saw my bare feet and the words erupted from him, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I could feel myself shrivel as I have for many years. Shrink. Shrivel. Sink.
I watched one of the basic patterns of my life roll through like a thundercloud. I felt my body collapse. Felt my soul shrink away, hiding. Watched as I dropped him off, went home, and ate things I didn’t need to eat. All while seeing exactly what was happening.
Luckily I have a sister, Sheila, I can talk to about these patterns. Thankfully, she went and picked him up.
But wouldn’t you know it, Sheila had to say something to him. When she told me, I rolled my eyes. “Why’d you have to say anything, Sheila!!!???”
[This response, hours after writing my Courageous Conversations ezine. Life is a willing accomplice. ]
Sheila told me how bad Dad had felt after saying it.
Ah. Crumbs. Now I have to open my heart to him, I thought somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps you know how much easier it is to be tough and strong than soft and vulnerable?
Off I trudged to see my dad.
Imagine my utter surprise – and how disconcerting it was – to have my dad immediately apologize with tears in his eyes. “I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t know why I said that.” In my quick attempt to make my dad feel better (and me too I guess; it was hard to see him so vulnerable) I didn’t let him finish. He wouldn’t let me push it aside, though, “That wasn’t kind. I have no reason not to be kind to you.”
Well, goodness me. What is it that the Brits say? I was GOBSMACKED.