Sometimes the poorest man
leaves his children the richest inheritance.
Who we are, who we finally become, and what we manifest in the world comes to us through our own experiences and efforts, as well as a series of millions of tiny chemical reactions, genetic memories, neuropathways, interactions.
One of the things important in my life is finding peace, personal peace. Where is it? How do we achieve it? How do we keep it? How do we teach others and share it?
My father has been gone a long time. In fact, about 90% of my life has been lived without him. Nonetheless, I am often reminded of the lessons I learned from him in our brief time together.
None of these lessons were organized, but integrated into everyday living. These life lessons continue to teach and unfold. Much of what we absorb about life, especially early on, come to us spontaneously from people connected to us or our parents, and those who care for us. Most o these people want what is in our best interest. Sadly, sometimes, our greatest teachers are walking a path in their own lives which they cannot see clearly. But, as our lives rub up against theirs, they help show us a way forward.
My Dad was/ is my best friend. He was as tall as a mountain and as strong as a bull. Or at least that’s how he looked through the eyes of a tiny child. And, this is how he will always remain in my heart and mind. As I got older, I could see chinks in his armor. But I also grew in understanding the nature of us mere mortals.
He was killed in a car wreck. That summer was the longest month of my life. I had a birthday, my father died, my maternal grandmother (my roommate) died and I was hit by a car.
I still love and miss my Dad, all these decades later.
Like most fathers, he could deny his only daughter nothing. But, all things are relative. What was “everything” to me, at the time, would have seemed very little to others. We were poor. This was something else I didn’t discover until later in life.
Loving, Learning, and Bonding
My fondest memories of my Dad were around the pre-school years. My Dad “watched” me in the mornings before he went to his factory work. My mother left the house by 5:30 am and cooked us breakfast. We’d eat, then head out in his huge blue and white Chevy. Thick as thieves. We’d drive around for a bit and eventually pull up to his favorite bar.
Every single weekday morning for the first five years of my life, he’d turn to me and ask, “What do you want, sweetie?” As if I were thinking about it for the first time, I would pause and say, “Orange Nehi, Wise potato chips, Slim Jim, and a salty fish.” He’d nod, as if he’d never heard this list before, go off to purchase the items. He would bring it all back to the car, make sure I was comfortable and felt safe. Of course, I felt safe, my Dad was taking care of me.
Once I was settled, he’d go back to his place of safety, and men, until it was time for him to drop me off and head to work. Each cozy in our own refuge. Me in the big blue and white fortress, and he on his barstool, laughing, smoking, and talking. These days he’d probably be arrested, but it was a different time then.
OK, so what’s the life lesson?
For hours, I would eat my snacks and watch people go about their busy lives outside my little protective bubble. I could make stories up for where they were going, conversations they were bound to have, or just watch and think.
I would read their faces, watch their body language, and know a lot of their story. I watched them laugh, cry, carry their groceries with downtrodden shoulders and interact with their children. I’d watch them kiss and fight and share laughs.
I was never lonely, even though I was alone. I was never afraid because my Dad was taking care of me.
Through all those long hours sitting, waiting, and watching, I learned something many adults still seek. I learned to be alone and content, if not downright happy with my own company.
I learned to sit in silence and not be afraid.
I learned to see people beneath what they were saying and doing.
I learned to watch faces, eyes, body language, breathing, touching, movement.
I learned to see human interaction, without the distraction of words.
Long before I needed to schedule downtime, quiet time, and time-outs, I learned to exist in quiet, and feel ok.
Long before I grew up and named my medical practice, “The Listening Place,” I learned to shut up, use all my senses when I am with people, and learned to listen.
Long before I learned to read words, I learned to read people.
And, I learned a love so deep, nothing can ever shake it.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. 🙂