I know Fathers’ Day was a few weeks ago, but my father has been on my mind since. Dad passed away 23 years ago and I still take the time after Fathers’ Day to reflect on both the man he was and our relationship. It’s a deep reflection and often my true thoughts don’t really come together for days or weeks after the actual date.
I remember him as a survivor, a lover, a judger, and a bit of a narcissist. He wasn’t the easiest guy in the world to be raised by, but using an alternate lens I can’t imagine that I would have had the successes I’ve had being raised by someone else.
We had our challenges when I was growing up, and they lasted throughout my 20’s. While our conversations were always respectful of each other with a nice dose of familiarity, I don’t remember expressing the love that should be the staple of such a relationship. I normally went to Mom to express my feelings for fear of being thought weak or unworthy by Dad.
In my early 30’s I moved to Western Canada, four hours by air from our family home. There was an obtuse comfort in no longer having to face the discomfort of a somewhat distant relationship which should be close.
In my second year living on the Prairies I had the occasion to have dinner with a colleague (PB) that I had a lot of respect for. The subject of his relationship with his father came up and I lapped up PB’s experience of a relationship similar to my relationship with Dad. He spoke eloquently of a son’s need to express his experience as a son … of what he admired, of what he emulated, and of what he might strive daily to distance himself from. PB spoke of the quality of spirit that came to him as a result of a single conversation he had with his father in this regard.
I took it to heart. I thought of my father aging and my own need to hold a fond memory of him. I struggled with some negative views of him as a taskmaster and a disciplinarian not always appearing to value fairness. I then tried to understand him from his eyes, a man raised by a widowed mother of four in the depression (his other three siblings being girls).
I mostly thought of needing peace in my heart with respect to the fundamentals of being father and son. I took PB’s advice to heart and on a visit to Eastern Canada I sought out my parents and we met in a hotel in Toronto. After dinner we returned to my parent’s room where I produced a decent bottle of scotch whiskey and asked my father if he would share a drink with me.
We discussed our life together. I expressed the love I had for him and what I loved about him. I honored his accomplishments. At the same time I expressed as compassionately as I could those things I remembered that I l still struggled with. We laughed and argued. We agreed and got emotional. We honored each other’s expressions and emerged with a new understanding, respect and love for each other.
I never saw Dad again after that discussion. I talked to him many times and for the first time in my life began to feel his unqualified love. We talked on the phone a lot, but I had embarked on a lifetime journey for seven months that took me most of the way around the world and he passed at the furthest point in that journey while I was in Darwin, Australia.
I love that the last time I looked in Dad’s eyes I did so with complete clarity of purpose and soul. I love that we parted with an understanding of each other and I carry great peace because of that.
What I continue to wonder is this. What would life be like if I honored every conversation I have with the same sense of importance and genuine care? What if I assumed that this was the last conversation I would have with this person and I would never get a chance to change my impact on them? What if I truly treated each interaction as the unique and unrepeatable event that it actually is? How would I engage? How would it feel to be led by someone who approached each moment with that in mind?
I ran into PB something like 20 years after our original conversation. I hadn’t had the opportunity to thank him for his wisdom. As I posted last week, I believe every moment counts. That includes every conversation. It’s true that some opportunities to make a difference only come around once. That is likely true of the conversation I had with PB, and it is surely true of the one I had with my father.
How do we ensure we use them well? I guess the flip side is also true. How do we make sure we don’t abuse them?
15 thoughts on “Make It Count”
We will never have
More moments than provided
We spend them wisely
Warms my heart in a great way
My thanks for your thoughts
For me, the other part of the question is always — what if I knew today was the last day I would have to speak these words, do these things, share these feelings, step this way….
How would I treat myself differently if I treasured every moment of my life as if it was the most precious gift I was ever given.
In summer’s warm embrace
a bee sips delicately at a blossom
tenderly my heart opens
I love this perspective Louise. Thank you for sharing it.
Ian, my eyes filled with tears as I read this post. I am so happy that you have a friend like PB and that you got a chance to connect with your dad on such a personal level. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story.
Thanks Diana. That I had that conversation remains a great comfort to me.
Finding peace in our relationships with our parents is such a courageous step for many of us. Thank you for sharing your story Ian.
Thank you Val. I appreciate your kind words.
Hello Ian. Just checking in to say that I really appreciated this post …. very touching & meaningful. xxoo
Thanks Helen. I really appreciate you!!
I am so glad for you that you had the chance to make peace with your father and speak with him at that level before he passed on. My Dad had a stroke when I was twenty and I never had the opportunity to say good-bye (or all the other things I should have said). It haunted me for a long time and I do make a point now of trying to leave on good terms with others at all times.
It’s tough to lose someone without closure, and I’m sorry that it was thus with your father. It appears that wisdom came from that event and I recognize you for recognizing it!
Thanks for sharing this, Ian.
As I was reading, I found myself thinking about my father and tearing up. Always love going down memory lane thinking about all the good times we had.
Sometimes life is so busy and we (or I) forget to take as much time as I should and just think about all the memories. Reading this made me stop and think about my dad, so again, thanks for sharing.
Thanks Rick. I love the perspective of enjoying the memories, yet without expressing any regrets! Memories are powerful learning tools where I have yet to assign much value to pure regret.
A honest and heartfelt post Ian. We all need to be reminded how precious life is and how quickly it can change. To be present each day helps me to remember what is important.