Emotional boundaries can be tough to define. On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there. On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.
Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool. Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability. Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons. The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others. The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.
Boundaries are a necessity, though. Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity. I do not happen to believe it is. I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.
“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.
“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.
“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.
“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,” means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.
Arguments and disagreements are understandable. Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first. One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.
Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent. The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another. If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.
There are many clinical components to depression including hormones, enzymes, physical manifestations, and emotional experiences. They can be objectively and subjectively assessed, categorized, and treated. What about the personal experience of depression? How would one describe that?
For each person, depression is a deeply personal event. Each episode is varied and unique in its expression. For me, today, it is a lethargy, a dark shadow cast over everything and everyone I see. No matter how much I love those around me, these momentary glitches in my brain chemistry leave me feeling very much alone, inadequate, and sad. These dips in my otherwise healthy emotional state, are surprises to me, even after nearly 40 years since receiving my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then called manic depression.
I hated the medications prescribed for me. Some made me feel like a zombie. Others gave me hives. Others caused me to go to sleep. None of them truly helped. I chose a more spiritual path in my treatment. I chose to look at the disorder as something that was present irregularly or mildly because I am fortunate to have a less injurious level of bipolar. Some of my peers, with a more serious condition, could not afford to take the path I take because it could lead to severe and deleterious effects. I suppose by some accounts, I am lucky.
Today, though, most feelings of good fortune and joy elude me. They are memories in my past and hope for my future. I don’t usually talk about my depression much because most people are afraid of that word. They fear it for themselves and for their families. They avoid the possibility that someone they love could experience such deep sadness for no reason other than the body disconnecting with those chemicals that would heal the weighty malaise. So, most don’t talk about it.
The funniest part is when some people whisper like chattering monkeys, “She must be depressed because she’s not very strong,” or “He must not have very good tools at his disposal if he’s giving into his depression.” Anyone who knows me knows that my personal, emotional strength is abundant, and that my tools are many. It simply is a fact that I have a medically psychiatric condition called bipolar. That’s all. In the same way as someone with high cholesterol or mild type-2 diabetes tries to keep his numbers down through diet and exercise, I work very hard at staying mentally healthy. Most of the time I am effective. Once in a while, like now, it gets away from me.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that silence magnifies my condition. Isolation adds fuel to the fire of sadness. So, here I am telling the truth about how I feel. Acknowledging that I am struggling with what has become a lifelong difficulty. Quite honestly, I feel better for doing so.
I share this information with you, dear reader, not because I need your sympathy or pity, because I don’t. I simply want to share with you my process. I want you to understand that perfectly normal people, strong people, wise people, happy people, sometimes have a condition that can, on occasion, get out of control.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-quarter of all adults in the United States are diagnosed with one or more mental disorders. That’s 75 million people. 2.6% of the adult population have severe bipolar disorder. I am not the oddball by any stretch of the imagination. Many go undiagnosed because of the stigma of mental illness. Sorry, but that’s just plain stupid. If one had cancer, phlebitis, alopecia, or gingivitis, one would not have a stigma applied to those conditions or diseases. So, why should mental illness? There is no reason except that people are afraid that they will succumb to some mental insufficiency.
Again, fear plays out as judgment against a group of people. So, to face that fear, I speak out against the ugly stigma, tell the truth about my disorder, and share with you what happens for me, at least. And I’m one of the lucky ones. It doesn’t strike very hard, even at its worst. For others, it hits harder. It is debilitating. It is overwhelmingly lonely. It can even be deadly. Yet because of the stigma, they cannot reach out for help, even to professionals or programs that would certainly assist in diagnosis and treatment.
I reach out to you so that perhaps, somehow, you will find a way to reach out when you sense someone close to you is having difficulty with mental illness. Speak honestly and without harsh judgment. Avoid terms like, “buck up,” or “toughen up,” or “don’t worry, this, too, shall pass.” Would you say that to someone with an obvious tumor on their head or bleeding profusely? Not likely.
Thank you for reading this message. I will feel better more likely sooner than later. For those who need you, don’t be afraid. They are simply the same people you love when they are healthier as when they are feeling worse. They may reach out to you verbally, or by a change in their interactions with you. They are not trying to drag you down in the darkness with them. They simply are reaching for the light.
Facing grief, hearing voices, fighting addiction, stopping cutting, riding the rollercoaster of manic depression.
These are all experiences that some people have with their forms of mental illness. Why is it, then, that the moment the words, “mental illness” appeared in your line of sight, you froze? Your back straightened. You may have looked around as if to see if anyone else was looking. You may have even gasped inaudibly.
Don’t feel bad. Everyone does that. It’s our natural response to the conditioning we’ve received regarding discussions about mental health.
When we hear of someone who suffers from anything from prolonged sadness to schizophrenia, we shake our heads solemnly side-to-side in piteous sympathy for the poor wretch and his long-suffering family. Sometimes, we even grow impatient with the sufferer.
“Why can’t they just get over it? Toughen up! Stop being a drama queen!”
It’s not that simple, my friends. It’s just not.
Even staying on a treatment regimen is difficult for those of us who are fighting our denial.
So, as you hear yourself speaking the words above, I just ask the following:
Stop it. Just stop it now.
If I said I had cancer, you would likely feel awkward, but concerned. If I said I had to have a root canal for a long-term dental condition, you would regale me with a story of your own endodontic therapy. Yet, if I tell you that I have mild bipolar disorder, you become frightened.
Well, I have mild bipolar disorder, as well as seasonal affective disorder.
If you’re agitated by knowing that about me, I’d ask you if you are frightened that my mental illness is catching, or if by hearing it, you will soon discover that you or someone you love will be diagnosed with some like condition. In this particular case, ignorance is complete bliss. It is the kind of bliss you fight hammer and tong to maintain.
I understand, though. I really do. I’m just asking you to rethink your belief system about mental illness. I’m inviting you to become more educated about this pervasive disease.
The latest numbers by the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that 26.2 percent of adults, 18-years-old and older, have some form of mental illness. No wonder we worry about it when fully 1 in 4 Americans have to contend with it. What does it say that 57.7 million people in the United States of America have been diagnosed with some mental disorder. That’s not including the many who are suspected to have yet been diagnosed and/or treated.
With the economic crisis still causing fear, with the threat of terrorism crossing our borders, with the increasing costs of medical care decreasing our treatment resources, we are being herded like sheep into a world of untreated mental illness. Only through education and activism are we able to find our way out of this morass.
The last thing we need to add to this process is shame. The truth is, shame is a very real component for most people with mental illness. That, more than anything, must change first for real social growth in this area to happen.
Having been a consumer member of the Executive Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) many years ago, I know that this organization can be of immense assistance to all people involved in the mental health arena. As patients, diagnosed or not, family members, friends, and co-workers, I’m asking that you take this step in participating in the care of those most at risk.
Education is a small thing to ask. Take 15 minutes. Look up a definition for something you’re interested in knowing more about on the websites for NMHA, or the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the WebMD Mental Health page. Your choice to investigate another’s process will make all the difference in the world. It will be a testament to your love and concern.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and to go the websites I’ve recommended. With your fearless choice to grow in understanding, you have no idea just how important your education is to others and to yourself.
By the way, what’s it like to have such an open heart?
After reading a rebuttal to some anonymous e-mails that are going out, spreading mendacities throughout our country about President Obama’s health care reform bill, HR 3200, and its companion Senate bill, one thing is crystal clear: some people simply cannot and will not abide change.
These are the same people who, many years ago, fought for the right to own slaves, beat women legally, and work children at little to no wages in sweat shops. The people who are asking our country to remain stagnant in the area of health care are attempting to impose a life of pain, struggle, and insolvency for an enormous group of our citizenry. How is this possible in 2009?
There are preposterous charges being levied by the plan opponents that this reform will force people to commit euthanasia upon the elderly, mandate end-of-life choices, receive merely rationed medical care, and have little to no power to choose their health plans at the corporate or individual levels.
Even at its face, these charges are ludicrous. No one in the United States would allow these mandates to exist; yet, there are those who believe this fantastical rhetoric.
The larger question is, what is so wrong with us as a nation that we would allow ourselves to believe, beyond reason, that any of these things could be possibly true? Have we strayed from our sanity so far that these fairy tale-level horror stories would ring true to our fragile ears?
Somewhere in this jaded, middle-aged man still lives the cockeyed optimist who believes we, as a people, can make more sense than this. We are not going to be herded, like babbling bovines, into a pen of illogical muck and mire. We will stand as a national community, review the accurate systems being suggested, and make a reasonable and dynamic choice that, if politics are set aside, can be a healing direction for our country.
We can actually imagine a day when our smallest, sickest child, born to poverty and crime, will have adequate care, both medically and socially, to grow into a productive, joyful adult. We can forsee a life of painlessness and nurturing for our elderly as they choose how to spend their final days. We will forget someday that at one time, a very long time ago, our family members wept because they could not receive the care they needed for serious and debilitating medical issues.
We cannot, however, forget those days lest we fall, once again, into that storied complacency that has left the poor, indigent, and culturally marginalized members of our community without any health care whatsoever. We must not allow our middle class moms and dads one more day when, after all their work and planning, they are left destitute because their child has cancer or cystic fibrosis or an as-yet-unidentified neurological disorder.
We must set aside our fears of new thoughts and new ways of doing things and heroically stand with those who are building a changing era. We’ve had the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Industrial Age, and the Technology Age; now, it’s time for the Healing Age.
This new age will be vehemently opposed by those who would remove choices from others’ lives based on the needs of a few. This is not a time for divisiveness. This is not the nay-sayers’ day.
This is a time for unity and our singular resonance of purpose. To each person, we must repeat the mantra, “Take action for healing… now!” Write to the President of the United States. Write to your senators and representatives. Talk with your neighbors. Everyone must do their part so that we find that one voice with which to sing the symphony of health and well-being for all Americans.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our future.
Manipulator. Bottomless pit. One-way street. Dead end.
No man would want to be referred to in these ways. No man. Yet, those men who fit that bill wouldn’t recognize themselves in those adjectives and nouns if someone applied them in their direction, anyway.
Certainly, there are women who operate at this level, as well; however, it is in men I find these qualities most appalling because, culturally, we are taught that we must provide for our families. We are the ones responsible for being the breadwinner, the provider, the masculine strength in our homes; at least, that’s what I learned from my amazing dad.
I know times have changed and I also know that men’s roles in our society have been shifted with the increase in single-family, mother-led homes. I don’t believe that these changes are intrinsically bad in themselves; however, I do believe that there is now a piece of the male puzzle that is missing.
What happens to our young men when the parent/s find it easier to do everything for their boys instead of insisting their sons do more for themselves? These boy-men become useless in the environment of a relationship because, at some level, they believe they are owed a happy, satisfying life without having to earn an ounce of that abundance and love. They grow up with the concept that love equates to service from the object of their affection.
That’s the problem right there. The other person in the relationship becomes an object. The selfish individual feels no responsibility to provide overt affection, kind words, reciprocal romance, voluntary supportive action, building and conservation of resources, or dynamic construction within the relationship. The empty man sits back and waits to be served by those orbiting his world.
This life-sucking entity will, on occasion, show a joyful, engaged exterior. The tragic part is that this change usually coincides with something he needs, like sex, money, playtime, or a resolution to his self-inflicted disassociated loneliness. He will give himself away because, in this time of need, he will remember to say words that are normally estranged from his vocabulary like, “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you.”
As soon as he is satisfied, though, he will return to the sofa to watch television, to bed to sleep off his strenuous performance, or vanish to his own sandbox to play, while the servant returns to work confused, unsatisfied, and alone. The only communication forthcoming from the single-minded person will be the orders barked to make dinner or the edgy tone imbued in the statements of his boredom emanating from his comfortable perch.
Let there be no mistake, though, that there is no victim here. The person that permits this type of individual into his life does so knowingly and with full permission. Although he may feel victimized by this emotional abuse, the victimization comes only from his own lack of self-worth in, first, not preventing the entrance of this person into his life, and, second, in removing them once he realizes who is lying next to him.
Is this emotional abuse? Yes. Is it preventable? Of course. Is it fixable? Only if both parties are completely commited to that repair, which is highly unlikely. The neediest of the couple, and it could be either of them, will expect the other to do the lion’s share of the work. The possibility of mutual satisfaction is extremely low.
There is no future with the self-obsessed man because he has built nothing for himself. All the other person has to which he can look forward is constant, unappreciated work. At the end of this process, the person who is serving will be completely drained of his or her energy, self-worth, money, and longevity because he will have worn himself down to nothing in an effort to care for his sedentary and emotionally helpless mate. With all this expended energy, the one being served will still not be sated from this outpouring of love and care.
Ultimately, there will be nothing to show for the weeks, months, years, or even decades of loyalty, fidelity, work, and love. If the active participant in this couple waits too long, the long-term issue will be that he will end up old enough to find very few romantic prospects from whom to choose when he is actually ready to move on.
It’s true that the selfish person would not likely be able to recognize themselves in the above description, but how many of those who have allowed themselves, and allow it they did, to be used in this way would be able to acknowledge honestly that they are the other party in this scenario?
Would they even know?
The poignancy of entertainer extraordinaire, Michael Jackson’s death, the resignation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and the family scandal of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, while extremely different events, remind me of the humanity that must be recognized about our celebrities.
As we peer through the glass of our televisions and computer screens onto the countenance of one luminary after another, we tend to forget that they are whole human beings, as flawed, gifted and sometimes confused as any of us in the mundane world of suburbia.
Each of these individuals are parents. Their children are so deeply affected by the events surrounding their famous father or mother, that we cannot fully assess what that impact is, yet. The challenge is, of course, that none of these people, particularly Mr. Jackson, will be able to do much about it by the time the issues fully fulmigate.
There have been several articles written in this blog about the need for compassion at a variety of levels. There seems to be a bit developing in some arenas; however, we are still focused on consuming every scrap of information thrown to us, like hogs scurrying for their slop.
Is it possible for us to step back, even for a moment, and call out to ourselves for restraint and compassion? I certainly hope so, if not for ourselves and the energetic quality of our spirit, but for our children. They are learning how to be from whom they see us choosing to be.
Remember, my friends, that behind each face lies a mind that holds sweet and bitter memories just like ours.
Behind each toned or surgically altered chest, beats a fragile, insistent heart that loves and is made sad in the same way ours are.
Under their feet lies the dirt of thousands of miles they have trodden on their paths, exactly in the same way we find the dust on our sandals, as well.
In the same way that 50 is the new 30, and gay is the new Black, compassion could be the new vision.
I wonder if it will catch on?
It is grizzly to conceptualize, let alone view, a photo of someone at or immediately after their death.
When I saw the photo of Michael Jackson in his final moments on the front of a couple of magazine covers, I was simply mortified!
Shame on those editors who decided it was a good idea. They just lost a little of their souls in that moment. Sadly, it only cost them $5.95 per issue.
No matter how public a figure, the family should not have to have photos like that plastered all over places like supermarkets and liquor stores for public consumption and I, for one, condemn those who opted to publish those photos, especially on the front cover.
While I understand that publications have the right of free speech, I always learned that one’s rights ended at another person’s nose. These filthy rags should be sued, and sued well, for their horrific invasion into the Jackson family’s tragedy and grief.
I shall never again purchase any magazine that held those images.
As aggrieved as many people are for the loss of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays, one can understand how the outpouring of sadness and sympathy can turn into a national near-obsession. That being said, one must also find the brake pedal for the intrusion into a celebrity’s private life, especially for the sake of the family. This level of feeding frenzy is reminiscent of vultures on a carcass.
As the national media has covered the death of Michael Jackson, every one of the channels has discussed his will, the custody of his children, the relationship he had with his father, and even the paternity and maternity of his children.
Has his family not one iota of permission to grieve over the loss of their son/brother/father in peace? Is it not enough that we have used Mr. Jackson as fodder for our discussions about his unusual behavior, questionable actions, and ever-changing appearance for the past forty years?
The man is dead. Dead. There is no more Michael Jackson in the assemblage of six billion people on the planet. Certainly his music lives on, as does his family; however, can we simply allow his passing to be handled respectfully and lovingly?
We are culture vultures. We scavange on every morsel of information as though it were our last meal. We tear apart every facet of a celebrity’s private life as though we had a right to it because we spent a few dollars on their albums. We are shameless as a people when it comes to our celebrities.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was Commander-in-chief, not one newspaper ever showed a photograph of him in his wheelchair. Not one outlet discussed his polio. Certainly, no one discussed in the newspaper or on the newsreel about the infidelities within his marriage. It was understood that President Roosevelt deserved his privacy and that this level of exposure would be detrimental to our society and standing in the world of the day.
We haven’t one ounce of that sense left. We’re like the fools who shoot guns in the air because we have them and we want to show our power. We don’t give a damn about where the bullets land.
Enough already. Enough!
The news media is making the news, not reporting the news. They have not got a clue as to what is appropriate any more. Between our government and our media, we are a shell of our previous selves.
What a tragic statement about who we’ve become – a bunch of Jerry Springer guest-wannabes who shout at the top of their lungs to make their point and battle on subjects they know nothing about.
Isn’t it time we go back to our trailer parks, have a cool one, do some honest self-reflection about who we’ve become and how we got here rather than dissecting the lives of people we’ve never, ever met?
There is a consciousness in which I live that is so clear and aware of the world around me. I can analyze, synthesize and evaluate in a speed faster than light, all the while intuiting at equal velocity. It’s nothing different than anyone else can do; however, it is only one side of the coin.
There is another point at which my ability to remember the past seems larger than my ability to see the present. I drift into my history more and more easily and sometimes it’s to the level that I feel as if I were to let go for just an instant, I would forever be floating in that previous personal epoch.
Whether it be my childhood, early parenthood, first concert, or the birth of my first grandchild, I can be there in such vivid reality that I almost forget I’ve already traversed this much of my personal journey. Sometimes, it scares me a little.
The triggers seem to be growing in number. A television ad. A sound or a song. A smell emanating from the kitchen. A photograph. They all take me back more and more quickly all the time.
The challenge, of course, is that sometimes I feel as though I might prefer my memories to my present. Although I know in my intelligent, purely cognitive mind that it isn’t possible to live in the past, it often feels like I can. The beauty of those nostalgic moments is that they’ve been filtered so cleanly of everything that hurt. Now, everything I remember is sweet and loving and in those snippets, I see things with my current level of experience while enjoying the moments of yesterday with my children’s precious faces and the laughter of my father, mother and brother. I hear the sounds of my grandparents as though I have the phone to my ear and they are sitting in their home listening to sports and making tortillas.
“Can you pick me up, Dad?”
“When are you coming up, Jim?”
“Apio verde, to you, Apio verde, dear Jiiiiiim, Apio verde to yooooou!”
“I love you, m’boy.”
There are no more sounds like that except in my heart and in my head. I miss them. I miss them very, very much.
I have no intention of allowing those memories to become more important than my waking, alert life; however, there is a very short distance between these two point… and, it grows shorter all the time.
Not every Father’s Day turns out the way we expect. It is especially hard when there is mental illness involved. This story is meant to speak to the challenges of having a loving father who suffered with mental illness at the end of his life and to honor the history of a great man who loved education and awareness by telling the truth about the last part of his history.
After years of having a productive and loving life, my father’s mental health had deteriorated, nearly imperceptibly at first, but more dramatically as time went on.
My mother called a few weeks before Father’s Day 1999 to tell me that my father was becoming more agitated and paranoid. She said that he was afraid she was trying to kill him. My mother was seventy-six years old, had suffered several strokes by that time and was a devout Roman Catholic. My father was a decorated World War II veteran. Dad was suffering from what appeared to be Alzheimer’s Disease, although we were to learn long afterward that it actually was a chemical imbalance that had been diagnosed but for which he was refusing treatment. He was so terrified, he was attempting to purchase a gun to protect himself from everyone, especially my mother. Thankfully, the man at the hardware store realized something was terribly wrong and put up enough road blocks to prevent my father from purchasing this firearm.
Dad refused to eat what my mother would cook because of his fears. He would store food that he purchased in the furniture. After my mother reported to me that Dad had struck her for the first time in their forty-three year marriage, I insisted that my mother move in with my aunt several miles away. It was clear to me that my father was losing his mind. I knew, too, that Dad did not have the boundaries that would prevent him from taking his own life, and perhaps, in a rage, my mother’s life, as well.
Dad finally decided to move to a veteran’s home to live out the remainder of his years in what he hoped would be peace and tranquility. Instead of making definite plans, he basically ran away from home.
After visiting the facility where he wanted to move, he arrived at my home on June 18, 1999, while I was at a rehearsal for a show I was music directing. He was clearly frightened and frustrated according to my eldest daughter who called me at rehearsal after welcoming my father into our home. I told her I would be home immediately after the practice was over. I was dreading this unexpected visit.
Dad and I had always had our difficulties. I always described our relationship as two men who tended to answer the same question using the same math equation and coming up with two different answers. It was challenging at best, at times. Other times, we laughed uproariously together at the smallest things.
When I arrived, Dad was sound asleep after his 200 miles trek. I called my mother to let her know he was with me and safe. She was relieved.
The next day, Dad took me to lunch for Father’s Day at Baker’s Square Restaurant. Our time together was strained, but I was happy to share his 38th Father’s Day with him, just the two of us. I didn’t want there to be any tension, so we kept the conversation light.
That all changed, however, when we arrived home. He put some papers in front of me that I said I needed to sign saying he was in good physical and mental health. These important papers were for the veteran’s home. They wanted to make sure Dad was not a danger to himself or to others.
I refused to sign. I told him that I knew he was suffering from a mental illness and that I could not, in good conscience, sign these documents. I said that there had to be other homes that would be more appropriate for him that could care for him as he progressed through his illness.
From there the conversation grew increasingly vitriolic. We were screaming at one another. I understood that he was fighting for his freedom. I, on the other hand, was fighting for his health and safety. Our horrific battle went on for at least three hours. Nearly forty years of unspoken animosity came tumbling out of my mouth. His four decade long frustration with me was vomitted forth toward me. The truth was, everything that needed to be said between us got spoken. I was tragically sad and ultimately relieved.
At the end of our verbal journey, I said, “Dad, I know you can’t understand this right now, but I’m doing what I know is best for you. I’m doing this because it appears you are suffering from Alzheimer’s and because I love you so much.”
Dad didn’t really say anything. He was too hurt to speak. I had attacked him. I had injured his heart. In his mind, I was cruel beyond belief after a lifetime of love he had shown me. He was my Dad. He became my Dad through adoption, not birth, for which I was deeply and eternally thankful. He and my mother gave me an amazing life. I am, to this day, overwhelmingly grateful for that. Sadly, there was no way he could see that gratitude in our conversation.
He went to bed that night without a word.
By the time I got up the next morning, he was gone. He had taken his GMC truck and driven away. It was the last time I would see or talk with my father.
Mom and I decided we would try to get him admitted to a locked facility. Through a series of misunderstandings, my father found out about what we were trying to do. Being a firm believer in Dr. Kevorkian, my father planned out and executed his own suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning in the very truck he brought to my home on that last visit.
Mother called on the last day of July 1999. My father was dead. I found out years later that my father shared a birthday with his mother and, eventually, his date of death, also.
After he was cremated, I placed his ashes where I knew he wanted to be buried. No funeral. No gravestone. Just good drainage, for which he so often requested.
I was alone on that hillside. No one would stand with me as I wailed my sorrow and grief into the bright summer afternoon.
After I finished patting down the dirt on my father’s grave, I sat on the berm near his final resting place and lit a cigarette. Suddenly, with the clarity of the sound of a living voice, I heard my father laughing.
“What’s so funny, Dad?” I asked out loud.
“You were right, Jim. There is more after life,” he responded jovially.
We both laughed together because my father had been an agnostic/atheist for more than thirty years. We had argued vehemently about God’s existence many, many times.
I didn’t think to ask him what it was that existed beyond our living perception. I suppose I figured I would find out for myself someday. I just knew that, as was often the case between us, we would argue and then laugh together. We would scream and then smile.
That was just our way.
Although I still have my birth father still living, Father’s Day will never be the same since Dad took his own life. The comfort I feel, though, is that I genuinely acted in my father’s best interest. I tried to be the best son I knew how to be. Perhaps in some ways I failed, but in other ways, important ways, I succeeded. God knows my father succeeded brilliantly at being a good father. My brother and I were always first in his mind and in his heart.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you. I miss you terribly. Dziękuję, Ta.