Last year I had a dream in which my father told me I should perhaps come to see him because he wasn’t sure he had much time left.
So I did. That week I caught a plane and went, by myself, to see him.
I was there for a week.
It wasn’t until one of the last nights there that I had the nerve to finally talk with him on a more deeper, personal, and intimate level.
Here’s how it happened.
I had gone to bed. Frustrated. Because it really sank home how emotionally absent my father had been for my whole life. I really noticed it this trip because, well, I was looking for it.
Here’s the weird thing: because he was emotionally absent from me, my response was to be emotionally absent from him.
So… I had gone to bed. In the middle of the night I got up to go to the bathroom (having drinks in the evening is a thing at my parents’ and sister’s house (where they live in a granny suite). On my way to the bathroom I saw my father sitting in his easy-chair reading his bible. Something like 3am. I went to the bathroom then went back to bed. As I was lying there I literally said out loud, “Ah, fuck it!” and got up again and went and sat in the couch across from my dad.
Small talk. At first. Then I popped the question: “Dad, do you love me? I mean, I know you love me, but do you respect me?”
His answer: “I love you. I just don’t understand you.”
My immediate gut thought was something like, “Well… this is good because he could have said, ‘I just don’t agree with you!” I think he’s trying!”
So, from there our conversation went deeper. I won’t go into detail about the conversation. I will share the gist of it though.
I left the conversation a couple hours later knowing my father loved me and that he wants to respect me, but he has no idea what I’m about. He doesn’t understand my decisions. He is unhappy with the direction my life has taken. He’s uncomfortable with the way I rock the boat. I think he’s embarrassed among his church friends about me. But he’s trying. He’s trying to understand me.
Like I’m trying to understand him.
I think I’m fortunate, though, unlike many of you, that he hasn’t rejected me outright. I’m still in his life. Either he’s willing to keep trying to understand me, or he’s holding out hope that one day I’ll come to my senses. Either way, I still have a relationship with my father and together we are carefully figuring out how to navigate it.
It would be nice if all our friends and relatives would agree to at least this minimum requirement for a relationship to work:
a sincere effort to understand one another.
Yours in love,