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Friday, March 27, 2009

Trajectory of Grief

Tomorrow marks three years since my father died. March 28th, 2006 is forever etched on my soul as the day my father's life left his body and went somewhere else - Heaven I believe. It is a heavy day for me as it marks a time when I no longer had direct access to him.



Since his death, my life has been practically nothing but graduate school. Although very hard (with more challenges to come), it has been a fairly decent context for grief. The rigor has forced me to work hard on it and at the same time given me something to be distracted by. However, I would have preferred to slog through graduate school while talking with him about it. He would have been interested. He would have lived vicariously through me.



Yes, my father was very intelligent, like many in his family. However, his intelligence was vastly underutilized. His potential stretched way beyond his performance and I believe he would have loved to have a front row seat watching me get a PhD. It would have been a sort of redemption for him. He would have been a participant in this journey of mine.



In fact, this journey of mine remains a redemption for him. The reasons he did not reach his intellectual potential are deep and painful and I will not visit them in this post. But I will say that he endured a lot of pain and took many blows so others would not have to - including me. Granted, he passed on some of those as well. But ion the end, I guess you could say that he watered down the poison just enough for me to be able to pursue some things in my life that might not have been possible otherwise. I am grateful to be where I am. When I hold a paper that gives me the title of "doctor", I will think of my father and feel I have done him right.



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Now three years out from his death, I can see the trajectory of grief for me (thusfar). Today I am sad. I have occasional bursts of grief, but they are less frequent. When I think of his voice, when I see him in my mind, when smell his scent, it's like he is just out of reach. No, it's like he lives too far away and it is hard to visit. But then the truth is that there is no where on Earth to go where he is. All I can find of him is in my mind, in the stories family members tell each other, and the few scraps of pictures we have of him.



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For the first two decades of my life, I had learned to hate my father. He was no saint, to be sure, and a quiet rage simmered within me (probably similar to the rage that boiled in him). Mine exploded at age 24. I was at a crossraods. I could either take the pathway of bitterness or the pathway of forgiveness. For many reasons I will not go into here, the pat I took was forgiveness. We had an unforgettable conversation filled with deep and loud weeping and hugging and words of love and reconciliation. It was the sweetest moment of my life to that point. It gets sweeter as I age.

I was finally able to talk with my father. The value of a son talking with his father is impossible to calculate. Where else does a boy learn who he is? Where else does he learn courage? Where else does he learn the balance of asserting himself honestly and giving proper respect? Yes, there are adequate substitutes and ways to patch together a social mosiac which compensates for the absent father, but there is no replacement for the real thing. A dry, cracked, and aching emptiness in me began to get filled...

...and I still had so much I wanted to say, to hear, to know. When my father died I lost the chance to get that filling up from him - the only one who could do it. I can't know some things now because he was the only source of that knowledge. It's gone forever.

My hope is that I am and will provide my children with those first 25 years of their life in real time and not have to try to make up for it later.

OK, enough for now.

4 comments:

Fajita said...

I love you and i'm praying for you right now.
Love,
Gail

Lonely Dissertator said...

This was such a precious post. Thank you for sharing. Father-son relationships are so hard for so many. It's really touching to hear of how you chose the right path for redemption. Your children are blessed to have you as a father!

Len said...

If all your children ever know is what they now have in their hearts, then they will be forever blessed.
Len

Lonely Dissertator said...

This was such a precious post. Thank you for sharing. Father-son relationships are so hard for so many. It's really touching to hear of how you chose the right path for redemption. Your children are blessed to have you as a father!