In This Moment… Dad
Here’s a few minutes of my free-flow writing from last week’s trip to Florida. Connor and I visited my dad and his wife, Gayle, who has Alzheimer's.
In the year since last seeing them, fatigue and hopelessness are my dad’s new companions as his best friend slips away into a childlike version of herself. Gayle’s daughter and granddaughter were also visiting, as well as my sister.
In this moment, pool fountain, trickling water, dad chopping carrots and parsnips for tonight’s matzah ball soup – Passover dinner, keeping tradition. In this moment, palms clank against each other in the breeze – a plane goes by. Frustration and hopelessness. Judgement and opinions. Fear. Mother/daughter giggling fits – a daughter’s love – deep connection. Fierce protection. Anger. Where are you, sweet, sweet, soul? Tears. What happens next? How does this end? And who cares for the caretaker? In this moment, the golfers laugh, my dad chops, the wind makes music with the palms.
I want to witness my dad’s experience from a place of stillness, empathy, and acceptance for what is. I want to find peace within myself in this heartbreaking experience, and the uncertainty of what’s ahead. I turn to Pema Chodron’s words for support, feeling a dance of resistance and acceptance within me. I share her words with my dad:
“The source of our unease is the unfulfillable longing for a lasting certainty and security, for something solid to hold on to…. When anything unexpected or not to our liking happens, we think something has gone wrong… We are never encouraged to experience the ebb and flow of our moods, of our health, of the weather, of outer events - pleasant and unpleasant - in their fullness. Instead we stay caught in a fearful, narrow holding pattern of avoiding any pain and continually seeking comfort. This is the universal dilemma.”
“We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Heaviness and misery was the flavor of the morning, sitting in solemn conversation with my father. Then came joy and relief, frolicking in the turquoise ocean with my strong, healthy son. Then heartbreak again, as I walked to my towel and witnessed the grief of parents having a photo shoot with their ill, bald-headed son, roughly Connor’s age. And back to joy and delight that night at dinner, where Gayle reminded us with clear, passionate words, in-between our waves of laughter, just how lucky we are to be together and love each other. In that moment, it felt like we were in the still and calm eye of the storm. Then a late-night fight with my sister. Misery. Making up in the morning. Relief and joy.
May I/we have the openness to “make room for it all” and fully experience this ebb and flow of life in its fullness.
A practice, for sure.
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