Today is my dad’s birthday. His favorite number was “7” and so here on 7/7, when he would have been 77 I can’t help but chuckle at how much satisfaction he would have been feeling, especially at 7:07!
The truth is that my dad left when I was pretty young so I didn’t have the benefit of a “full” or “complete” father/son experience. We mended our relationship over the years and made something pretty good out of it but by the time I was really getting my adult life underway he slipped into the clutches of Alzheimer’s. He died when I was 29 but it was really over a few years earlier.
On the day he died, my first-born child (a son, of course) was just three days old. In the same hospital, at approximately the same time, one generation passed and made way for another to emerge.
Long before that day in the hospital 10 years ago, and every day since, I have lived with the pain of childhood loss and separation and its manifestation into adult adaptations, some productive, others less so. It’s taken me a long while to forgive myself for the negative ones and to understand that I have simply, though not easily, been going through my own healing to get to a place where I can stand on solid ground, accepting what is mine to accept and committing myself to breaking the old patterns of anger, impatience, arrogance and regret. This remains a daily struggle.
The new pattern that is emerging is one of possibility and acceptance, one of renewal and growth, one of confidence and presence, one of patience with and understanding of self. As you may know from your own experience, each new loss, every fresh separation, is a reliving of all the old ones. When we grieve, our sadness is not located solely in the present but in all of our past losses, those deeply significant touchstones for the regression and progression that marks every life.
I am sad today because of a fresh loss I am experiencing. My mentor, friend, colleague and boss of the last four years worked his last day today and hits the road tomorrow to begin the next chapter in his life and the life of his family. This remarkable man challenged me every day of the last four years to believe about myself what he so readily believed: that I have all I need, if only I remain willing enough and courageous enough to build the confidence to use it. All he did for four years was expect and challenge me to locate within myself the next level of learning and development. With his support I have attempted exactly that and, if you read my entry of July 1 you will understand that it is, in large part, his steadfast belief that has brought me to this point of massive opportunity in my life. I know I’ve done the work and that lots of “significant others” have played a part but he was the catalyst, the essential spark, and for that I will remain deeply, deeply thankful.
And so, his departure taking place as it does, fittingly and painfully, on my dad’s birthday, is an opportunity to experience the old losses and to see myself as I’m today, “full and against a wide sky” (to paraphrase R.M. Rilke). I am whole. Not complete, but whole. I am on solid ground and, being so, I can feel and express the pain, honor its significance and place it in a long line of separations and losses, the natural accompaniment of a life lived out in the open.
Thank you, Blake.
I love you, Dad.