Hey All --
In the spirit of Father's Day, here's a re-post from the recent past . . . edited to be up to date.
Two and and a half years ago I heard some distressing news from my Mom. I had already known that Dad had to be taken to the hospital for some sort of stress test, but this took an unexpected turn.
During the test, an angiogram was taken, and it revealed that the main artery to Dad's heart was 99% blocked. According to those facts alone, he should not even have been able to walk around, miracle of miracles. So they administered emergency triple bypass surgery to remove the blockage. This took the better part of the day, and I kept calling Mom almost hourly to check in Dad's progress. Between that and the text messages I sent to everyone else I knew about Dad, the battery did not last by the time I finally got home.
It really made me step back and think about my father, too. In my family, my Mom had the more outgoing personality, so he tended to disappear in the shadows. When he did, however, he truly was the Power Behind The Throne. :)
I also remembered one episode from childhood that forever defined the type of man he was. I was about 8, maybe 9, and he wanted to show me some work he was doing on the car. He wanted me to be mechanically inclined, so I'd know what I was doing once I had a car of my own. I tried to look interested, but it didn't work.
As unforgivable as I'd later realize this to be, growing up in a blue-collar town, I was anything but mechanically inclined. I would have given anything at that time to go back inside the house, watch cartoons, and do anything that would allow me to put my mind in neutral, after the previous 5 school days of having various adult authority figures demand, in tones of righteous indignation, that I "Pay Attention!!!!!"
I would learn acting skills in later life, but that day, my performance was a failure. Finally, my Dad gave up out of frustration and told me to go back inside. I said "No, Dad, really, I'm interested," hoping to avoid another lecture, but he wasn't buying it.
So I did watch my cartoons, but I did so with a heavy sense of guilt. Once again, I had disappointed someone without doing anything at all. But later, he came into my room, and we had a talk.
He said, "David, I can't play the saxophone, but you can. I also can't draw cartoons, do funny voices, or sing those Michael Jackson songs on the radio, but you can. I'd like you to one day learn how cars work, because it can save you a lot of money and give you a good hobby. But if this is not something you want to learn about now, that's OK. You really don't have to do everything that I do, because you're your own person."
The reason why this moment remains so important to me is because it was the first time in my young life that an adult authority figure did not yell at me when I was being myself. In fact, this was the first time in my life any authority figure told me that I was OK, and that I should feel OK about it! In that moment, my father, with his quiet, gentle, and thoughtful ways, became Bill Cosby, Ward Cleaver, and Mike Brady all rolled up in one!
From that day to this one, my father has remained a man of patience and dignity. The thought of him undergoing the bypass made a lot of things clearer to me -- that he deserves a lot more accolades and praise than he's received. For all things he's done, for his family and his country, he deserves a ton of recognition.
In later life, my father would enlighten me with his simple, almost Daoist wisdom. As a teenager, sitting at the dinner table, I would sometimes go on my oft-repeated rants over who made me angry and how wrong they were. In response, Dad would patiently say, without the slightest trace of annoyance in his voice, "David. Eat your dinner."
At the time, I'd get belligerent when he said this, because I thought he was trying to shut me up. He certainly was, but he was trying to do it in a way that would teach me that the anger and rage I was feeling was not going to do me any good when a plate of my mother's cooking was sitting in front of me undigested. Right at that moment, at dinner time, I couldn't travel back in time and suckerpunch the miscreant who'd aroused my ire, but I certainly could enjoy the meal instead. Now I look back and laugh how he was always the one who could hold it together, no matter what -- without ever studying Zen Buddhism, he was just almost as advanced as the Dalai Lama.
Yes, the past happened, and we were all stuck with it. But through my father's gentle repositioning, I learned projecting it on others around me, all of whom were actively engaged in the present moment, did precious little to help things. In his own way, he knew I was upset and he wanted me to be happier, but he also knew that dwelling in the anger and enabling feelings of permanent victimhood would not be effective solutions.
So, I dedicate this reposted and re-edited post to my father. I'd also like to wish a Happy Father's Day to all the men out there who accepted this most challenging role, and to thank them for the examples they have always set for their children. I'd also like to thank my father for the support and encouragement he gave me earlier this year when it was most needed.
Yes, my Dad really was, and still is, the Zennest master of all Zen masters! I still know of nobody else who keeps composure like he does. I hope he had a nice day to just relaaaaaax today. :)
Good night, All!