This past Father’s Day felt different for me. Anyone who reads me knows my Dad’s been my hero since my first trip to Australia. My Aunt and Uncle had such positive views of my parents, and I respected my Aunt and Uncle so much that I began to reconsider who my parents might be—not as my parents—but as individual people living their own lives.
I’ll be forever thankful to particularly my Aunt Ev who did such a great job of helping me to learn to recognize those qualities in all adults. She also did a great job of explaining some of the challenges of adulthood that too-often kids assume are things about them rather than about adulthood. That was the beginning of my father becoming my hero.
As I’ve written in these pages, Dad had a massive brain injury of his own when I was young and he was not expected to live the night. Two weeks later he was out of a coma, slowly regained his memory and his brain became a subject of debate between me and a very talented neuroscientist.
Because it was well-before the 2000’s the prevailing wisdom was that, because brain cells didn’t replace themselves in the same way they do in the rest of the body, this lead everyone to conclude that the brain didn’t change. It does grow new cells, but there was no recognition of other changes. I knew the brain had what is now called neuroplasticity and that it can and did change all the time. Her beliefs lead her to the conclusion that my father would get worse. I was young then and I couldn’t explain very well at the time how I knew for sure, but I assured her that my father would improve and that the brain does grow and change, and those two things are now known to both be true.
The funny thing is, even though the doctors that night told Mom and I that Dad wouldn’t make it, and even though his head was this weird shiny smooth pumpkin of bruises and tubes, and there was nothing recognizable about his head, I was still entirely sure he would be fine. I literally had zero worry for him—I was more concerned about how my Mom was. But this year—after his last fall, that actually frightened me. That brought time into focus. I try not to think about time, but for Mom and Dad I’ll do anything.
I may get 20 more Father’s Day with my Dad. But I also know that he’s way past the national average for age and so this year’s could also be our last. An acute sense of that had Dad glowing in the dark this year. My parents have always been so precious to me but I have modelled myself after my father. And the idea of living without him terrifies me. But I happily go toward that terror because I know by facing my fears I will be making him even more precious and that will make us even closer.
My Dad has this one particular skill. He can be fully invested in you. This means that if you are in front of him and you’re angry about how you can’t stand Mark, and that Mark is the reason for all of your pain and suffering, my Dad would not join you in attacking Mark. But he would support you completely as you attacked Mark. He would be genuinely sorry you were in pain and he wouldn’t argue with you about Mark. You would get full empathy from him.
Now, if my Dad went to see Mark and Mark told the opposite story—the one where you’re the jerk—then again—my Dad would not join in on any bashing of you. But he would fully support Mark. He would be sorry Mark was in pain. But Dad knows only support. He has no attack. He can just be with you in whatever moment you’re both in, and he doesn’t need any opinions of his own when he’s there. He’s there for you.
If you think you have unlimited Father’s Days, or Summers, or Christimas’s or Tuesdays, then you’re fine. But eventually you figure out you don’t, and then each of those things becomes stunningly special. Far from wanting just one more Father’s Day, you’ll want one more weekend, one more day, one more hour.
I’m not a vampire and neither is my father. We have hearts and our souls will eventually leave them. That temporary nature is the very quality that gives life its richness. It is what the vampire can only taste in small doses but humans can activate throughout their lives.
I have my father’s sense of humour. I remember distinctly the day I learned courage from him. I remember distinctly when I learned compassion from him. And he taught me what it was like to be with a human being who was sincerely and completely invested in connecting with me. Experiencing that connection always felt so incredibly good and it gave me so much strength that still today I do my utmost to have as many of my exchanges be like that as possible. Dad has always left people better than he found them.
I’m grateful that my Aunt woke part of me up while I was still young enough to have a very deep and wonderful relationship with my parents. I will miss my Dad if he leaves this Earth before me. But in the meantime I won’t let my fears eat up my insides. Not when I can use them to push me even closer to Dad.
Reconsider the people around you. Do not take them for granted. That would be stealing from yourself.
Have an awesome day.