Synchronicity

As I approach Father’s Day, I am surrounded by synchronicity, a set of events which appear to have meaningful coincidences. I do not actually believe in the concept of coincidences in the first place, that they should be meaningful absent a cause is more a mind trying to make connections where they do not exist rather than a deep insight, it is, simply, a vibe. But I like the word “Synchronicity.”

My own father and I have had an unusual relationship. I say unusual because it does not seem to be the relationship my peers express experiencing. We’ve been close, distant, and close again for decades. From what people have told me, their relationships have been stable and unchanging. My father and I have both grown over the years, at some points we were on the same plane, others we were not.

Just last December, I was rather harsh with my father. I will make the excuse that I was exhausted from trying to explain the complexity of my brain injury when he popped in with an email of basically “Well what you should do…” after I had been struggling most of the year to do those very things, but I released fifty eight years of frustration on him. Regardless of what I perceived as aloofness, I went overboard. His response was precisely what I would desire, he didn’t make a big deal about it. Instead, when I told him about my surgery in April, he flew in to spend a few days.

 

Dad as I came out of surgery

 

I contrast this with several other paternal relationships in my life.

I would like to believe my relationship with my children is similar to that with my father, in the sense I love them no matter how much they turn away from me. Just last week my youngest son turned thirty four, we haven’t spoken in a few years, but last I saw him he was holding onto a coat of mine which he had borrowed on a previous visit twelve years prior. He said it was the only piece of me he had. Nolan has not communicated with me in years, but he has not (as his siblings have) blocked me. He is honest, if he were angry he might block me, he just doesn’t want to get caught up in the drama of his siblings disapproval of me. I’m still holding out hope for the siblings as well, but it’s hard to reach out to them while I’m blocked. I just know how I grew in my relationships and hope they will do something similar. They have a few years to go, I was about the age my eldest is now when I found a way to understand my father, but then I wanted to understand my father, I was a bit more curious.

My son Nolan (in my coat)

My girlfriend has a difficult relationship with her father, and as I examine that relationship and attempt to assist in the repair of it, I appreciate my father even more. Where our differences often were the result of one of us growing in a dimension the other had not (at the moment), Sam’s and her father’s issues appear to spring from a lack of growth. From what I can see, their relationship has not changed over their lifetimes, both seeking the ideal relationship and accepting nothing less; Sam seeking her vision of a proper father and Saul seeking his vision of a proper daughter, neither accepting the other’s frailties. I hear actual expressions of compassion from each of them, but each wants the other to change. This is the problem my children have, they resist changing their point of view for fear of it being perceived as weakness, an acknowledgement of their previous point of view being “wrong.”

These relationships, and those of other people I have been close to, tell me there is no “normal” father/child relationship any more than there are normal interpersonal relationships of any kind. It is certainly common for children to love their parents and vice versa, but as in any relationship, one party’s love does not obligate reciprocation.

I believe my father is proud of me, he recognizes my strengths and even though I did not follow the path he had in mind, I have been a productive member of society. I am certainly proud of the good works he has accomplished. Go back forty years and we were both difficult and less mature.

Times change. Some of the things I did forty years ago are unacceptable now, others were odd then but normal now. As I have come to reconcile my brain injury, one of my primary concerns was that I am not who I was before the fall. My neuropsychologist reminded me that no one is who they were last year or ten years ago, we change, the world changes, and the healthy among us adapt.

Some people refuse to let go of their pain. Some people find themselves trapped in a relationship in which their opposite clings to their pain. The healthy thing to do would be to walk away, but parental relationships can be as painful to walk away from as to endure. Parents tend to understand the delicate balance, which is why I had hoped my own children would see our relationship more clearly once they became parents. One more lesson in “just because it worked for you doesn’t mean anyone else will see it.” That is a lesson I need to relearn often.

If there is a secret, that is it. Learn and relearn. As each participant changes, and the world they live in changes, accept and forgive; this project never ends. It would be nice if relationships were simple, but they are not; they are the connections of two unique individuals. You can blame the frustrations on Fitzgerald, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” or you can change the way you look at it. Leave the past behind, and focus on now, accept and forgive.

 

 

 

 

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Father’s Day

Today, 8 June, the second Sunday of June, is Father’s Day in some parts of the world. In America we celebrate it next Sunday, 15 June, the third Sunday of June. I will be taking that day off, but will probably repost a blog I find significant.

Father’s (Fathers, Fathers’) Day is celebrated throughout the world, on dates spanning the calendar. It celebrates many different aspects of Fatherhood, but I’ll be focusing on Father’s Day in America.

As in many counties, it started not as a response, but as a complement to Mother’s Day. It was initially conceived in Spokane Washington on June 19, 1910, at the YMCA, by Sonora Smart Dodd, who had been born in Arkansas. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. The holiday met resistance from Congress, which felt it might be commercialized (and we say they never get anything right). In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Personally, I feel that speaks volumes about the forgotten parent. Father’s Day was officiated during the birth of “Women’s Lib.”

The role being a father is a tough gig. Unlike being a mother, the male has the choice to be present, so every father is a volunteer. The balance of love and discipline is often difficult for children to see, until they become parents themselves. Societal prejudices have shaped the perceived role in ways that do not reflect reality. Being male, I have only been a father, and I would never judge the role of mother on any balance, both roles are exceptionally complex.

In some countries, Father’s day is seen as a celebration of immediate fathers, but is often celebrated at the eldest grandfather’s home. It is a celebration of fatherhood, and fatherly bonds across generations.

My relationship with my own father has had its ups and downs, but I never stopped loving him as a father. My relationships with my own children have had their ups and downs, but I never stopped loving them. I assume it will work for them as it worked for me. In more ways than any child can imagine, Father’s Day is a day in which fathers take pride in their children.

My children may not realize that it is their independence I admire most in them. I see myself in them. Each of them different, each displaying a different character trait of mine.

On our first summer vacation in Belgium, there was a terrible storm. The garage and basement took on about a foot of water, and as the storm passed, Lieve and I went down to move the water to the drains. The garage had a lip of cement at the entrance, with a large drain was just on the other side. Lieve’s father took a hose and made a siphon.

Lieve turned to me, lifting one knee and grasping a fist in the air with the other arm said. “My dad is a physicist” with such pride I was moved. He didn’t see it. I’m sure my father knows as little of my pride in him if measured by such moments. Both fathers know that love and respect is there, and that’s a large part of being a father. Missing some of the grand moments, but remembering all the small ones, some the children didn’t even realize had taken place.

This year, on the day before Father’s Day, my youngest daughter, Meghan, will graduate from Drexel University with a degree in engineering. She’s certainly at the top of my mind right now, but no child is ever a favorite.  My oldest daughter, Devon, is making a life for herself and my grandson Tommy in Colorado, having made some difficult choices in her life she remains strong. My eldest son, Leyland, is making a career in the Air Force, and married just last year. My youngest son, Nolan, is making a living as an artist in Huntsville Alabama, moving from media to media. What better Father’s Day gift than to have four successful children?

I was touched by a photograph of a friend and his son at a graduation ceremony last week. The mutual pride glowed through the image. That’s the way we would like it to always be. Being a father is seeing that picture when your child says they hate you, remembering how you said the same words to your father, and knowing their child will say the same words to them. Seeing past the moment, knowing the picture is how it really is.