We knew for months you were failing.
Your short-term memory was slight.
You were waking in the dark, dressing to "do chores."
You fell asleep sometimes talking on the phone.
After surgery and pain and falling out of bed,
We were told you had 2-3 days left.
I was relieved when I was told you had died.
You'd said for years, "I'm ready when the good Lord takes me."
You are no doubt making friends in heaven now.
I remember when you visited me in Seattle—
We took stuff to the disposal station
And, the friendly guy that you were,
You walked up to the next waiting car, and started talking.
My housemate Doug said, "He's a pip of a man."
I saw you differently after that.
You were still good, kind, God-fearing; "pip" added pizzazz.
You were the best example I could have had of faith, and trust in God.
Yet you didn't judge those of us, despite your disappointment,
Who became fundamentalists or non-religious—four of us nine.
You lived by what you were taught; you probably never doubted.
I felt sad that we never engaged in philosophical discussions.
Your wisdom was in your knowing,
Sure that you were doing God's will.
That credential more than matched my Masters in Adult Education.
Questions I had, opinions, were from wanting to know.
I remember how I longed to be understood by you.
The one strong experience I had of that was on the Seattle ferry.
You and Mom, in the 1980's, were visiting from Iowa.
I told you, tearfully, how hurt I was when I left my marriage in 1975
That you had chided me, and not supported me.
I'll always remember (with tears as I do now)
Your leaning close and taking in my pain.
I think of that sometimes when I teach Nonviolent Communication.
As NVC suggests, you connected, didn't correct.
And I'm sure your letters back then were from a father's love.
I think of another time, fishing with you in Rock Rapids,
My ever-present need to understand,
Asking how you felt about one thing or another.
I felt unsatisfied with your reply.
I guess I wanted to burrow into your heart
And you may have felt as I do these past days,
A wish to fold in on an inner sanctuary.
People said you were a simple man, a man of few words.
It was always said in admiration, as I say it now.
I see how I make my life complex, and the stress that leads to.
You heard your Mom nag your Dad,
Even as he walked outdoors with the pain of his cancer.
Your motto became "Silence is golden,"
And you'd walk away when Mom was angry,
Sure you were doing the most loving thing.
How easy it is to understand—even without agreeing
That experiences we've had can so guide our actions.
I wonder if it would've been a gift to share this sooner.
I got back my original photos from an earlier calendar I'd made you.
And I am comforted remembering my calls and cards, and letters.
I doubt I could've felt or shared this fully when you were alive.
You believed fully in heaven, and Catholic teachings.
I wonder if any of us will hear your whisperings from eternity.
I'd expected to feel most sadness for not having
A reason for future family gatherings.
Then brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces
Spoke of vacations at national parks
With something for all ages to enjoy.
My bereavement detoured to hope and possibilities.
At a Nonviolent Communication workshop tonight,
I cried for five minutes and received empathy.
Since I'd not had a really intimate connection with you
(We were into small talk, where you felt more at ease,)
My tears puzzled me. Were they tears of mourning,
Made more painful by the broken front door lock today?
I feel, after these few weeks, occasional bursts of bereftness,
Never knowing what might trigger the tears.
Once I cried out—"What if there isn't a heaven? Where is he then?"
I wear your long johns for pajamas,
Your socks and sweater for comfort.
It feels like perhaps I'm carrying on your solo tribe's stories that way.
I think at times, "I can't be mourning. We weren't that close. We didn't see life the same way, believe the same truths."
And then I remember leaving my Mom's hospital bed
Nearly 20 years ago, wailing as I was led away to the airport,
Not because we were so close,
But because now my wish for that could never come true.
No matter how many walks on country roads,
How many meals and card games, and garden harvestings,
We rarely discussed concepts or mental meanderings.
Their giving and living was from the heart and from their faith.
I choose to be content with these expressions of love.
After all, I am who I am in large part because of their example.
I am grateful for the tears and memories. Thank you, Dad.
I welcome your comments and your memories of your dad. If you have areas you've not worked out with your family, I invite you to a complimentary coaching call. I'm at 206-938-8385. Happy connecting with your Dad, or with the memories of him.
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