If you look at it from the right angle, being told you were dead is a big plus in life because it gets you to really appreciate that being alive is actually quite a privilege. So first my dad almost lost me due to my massive brain injury when I was five, and then I almost lost him in 1983 when he ended his roofing career by doing a 3 meter head-first dive into concrete. He’s had cancer, he experiences strokes, and the other day my parent’s neighbour found him unconscious and bleeding on her front sidewalk.
I have been keenly aware since I was five that just as I almost did, people can vanish and often without warning. One minute we can talk to them and the next minute we can’t. When Mom and I got to to the hospital physical Dad was there but mental Dad wasn’t. He didn’t know who we were or what had happened. It’s the first time I remember seeing my mother look scared, and Dad looked lost. It must be a terrible sensation to not be able to reel in your own identity. And at the same time it shows that our identity is little more than a collection of our memories and habits.
As I sat in the Emergency Room waiting area I couldn’t help but notice the worried expressions on nearly every face. Everyone was living in the future or the past. They were wishing someone hadn’t tried that trick on their bike, or they wish their diet had been better the last 20 years. Or if they were living in the future they were speculating about what might happen. That’s when I was reminded of how most people see things.
Because I knew very profoundly that I really could lose my father at any second, I did not waste a moment of our time together by wondering about times other than the moment we were in. In that moment I could see that he was scared and that he didn’t even know what would bring him comfort, and so I just held his hand and told him I loved him and that worked pretty well. With no offence to the others intended, if you were watching them closely you could see they were so busy worrying about what they might lose that they weren’t very present at all with the people they were there with—including the patient.
Despite my awareness during the emergency I was aware that night that I had undergone a fundamental shift in my self-identity. I was born again as I realized that my time as a part of the next generation was approaching and it allowed me to come to realize that I’m unnerved by the idea of living without my father. I didn’t know it until this last accident happened, but I know of no safer place than in the presence of my entirely non-judgmental, fully supportive father. He’s always displayed courage, decency, kindness, generosity, compassion and intense interest.
My dad has been genuinely excited by everything that’s excited me. He loves it when I love my life and I do not like the idea of living without my hero and that knowledge has changed me. But rather than lament where I am in life I accept that these transitions are a natural part of my love for him and our movement though life. If I don’t resist them with wanting thoughts I will be able to fully immerse myself in the moment, and that’s better because that’s where I’ll find my Dad.
My parents are both way past the national average for lifespan. Mom teaches exercise three times a week and Dad volunteers all over the place plus he walks every neighbour’s dog. That’s what he was doing when he fell. But at their age things can change in an instant and so I’m fully aware that I could have another two decades of goodbyes or that the next one might be the last one. That can feel terrifying if I think about it from a what do I lose? perspective. But if I think about it as a simple reality, it suddenly makes my already beloved parents even more precious.
My Dad is my hero and I love my Mom thoroughly. If my life has been this great clearly they got a whole bunch of stuff right. If it works out that I get another 20 years I will be grateful for every single day. But if it ends sooner I will still be living in a state of mind where I am routinely, unbelievably grateful that these two amazing people are my parents. And loving that fact is about the best thing I can think to do with however much time we have left with each other.
Thanks Mom and Dad. If you were wondering if you succeeded—I can’t imagine a greater success than helping a kid to live a life that he’s absolutely loved. I love you both more than you can imagine.
hugs and kisses, s
PS Oh yeah, and as for Dad’s fall—his brain bleed is healing and he’s thankfully back on his anti-stroke medication. We’re going to watch some playoff hockey games together this week. 🙂