I wrote a post for my Mom last month, and since she always said “it takes two”, which includes the conventionally-held ideal parenting situation, I felt I needed to pay a similar homage to my Dad. After all, neither parent could have done what they did without the presence and contribution of the other. 🙂
Thank you for being strong. Thank you for the sacrifices you made. Your body, your heart, and at times, your sanity, all took a hit. Just so that you could provide for your family like a real man-with-a-family should do, but also going above and beyond, to give us everything we ever wanted, to make all of our dreams possible and reality. Thank you for those efforts.
Thank you for helping give me a love for music and sharing in it with me so generously and enthusiastically. Thank you for excitedly wanting to share with me a song you liked, in hopes that I’d like it, too. And always, I did.
Thank you for the Talks With Dad (that began with “I am your dad….”) after school that weren’t always pleasant, but were never violent, and were very effective in putting a stop to behavioral problems early on, before they became too detrimental. I remember learning crucial life lessons about stealing, lying, and spitting during class. Because of your active involvement, these issues came to an abrupt halt and never needed to be addressed again. Thank you for your involvement and your guidance.
I understand that you couldn’t always physically be there, and I have absolutely no hard feelings about that. (I know that your heart was there, and that’s what counts. I know this because I sneaked a look at the dashboard of your truck and saw our most recent pictures there.) I want you to know that I understand. I understood then. I never felt abandoned, ignored, or forgotten. Thank you for that security.
Please take a moment to read that again, as many times as it takes…. I never felt abandoned, ignored, or forgotten.
You may not know the truth, which is that you were there when it really counted: the difficult boyfriend breakups, the piano recitals, the school band concerts. You were there, in the school bleachers with a video camera, applauding heartily after the band finished playing the song I wrote in Grade 7, brimming and grinning, shouting “power!! Music power!!” in vigorous support of my efforts and accomplishment. Yes, I heard that, all the way from the stage. Thank you for being there, and for that encouragement and pride.
And yes, I remember. I remember everything. I remember your choice of your family over a particular habit when presented with the ultimatum. I remember your involvement in the recovery program and its meetings, and your faithful commitment to regular individual, marriage, and family counseling sessions. I watched you transform throughout the years. Oh yes, I was aware of that. Thank you for that effort.
I remember you breaking down in tears a few years ago on the back porch, holding my hands in yours, as you pleaded for my forgiveness for what appeared to be absence and maltreatment during my childhood years. It’s beautiful that you did that; it took strength and courage, and I know that it was a necessary part of your own healing. (It was also a much-treasured part of mine.) But you didn’t necessarily have to do so on my account; I already loved you. The fear and conflict within me had already evaporated 🙂 There wasn’t much to be afraid of anyway; you never hit us; we never coiled in fear of being hit, no matter how angry you might’ve been at the time. Thank you for that restraint.
Thank you for the praise and glowing testimonials to all the skeptical/different-paradigm family members about our work, our practice, our skills, and our accomplishments, how we had started our clinic and learned to heal people. These have given us incredible encouragement and reinforcement. In part from those words, we derive the strength and the energy to do even better with time, armed with the knowledge that we’re doing something that pleases and is valued by someone intelligent, someone who does not waste time with empty compliments, whose compliments actually mean something. Thank you for placing your trust in our hands to help you with your own health recovery plan. That has been the greatest honor, to begin to give back in order to balance out what you have given us. Thank you for that honor and support.
The beauty isn’t always as obvious in what you said or say, because your message requires more intelligence than the average person possesses to comprehend; the meaning and sentiment deeper than words can embody. The vibe may at times have been rougher-and-tougher around the edges, but it was there. The meaning lying between the words, in the emotional fuel behind them, in the subtleties. Your actions said everything that needed to be said. Your actions told the story. Your actions held the proof. The proof of your love for us. Thank you for that love.
I know you wanted to say more throughout the years, but maybe didn’t know how to say it. The message often got garbled and misinterpreted. That wasn’t entirely your fault; since “it takes two”, I was the other half of the misunderstanding and the resulting clash. I know that now. I also know that everything you said and did, you did so out of love. Sometimes it was fear. Because you were acutely aware that the world wasn’t always a warm, furry, forgiving place. You were sometimes (or often?) scared for us, because ultimately, you loved (and still love) us that much. You feared for our safety, for our vulnerability, for our innocence. Thank you for that depth of caring.
You held everything together as best you could, while a torrent of issues ate at you constantly. You felt like you were drowning in quicksand (yes, I remember that conversation, too), wrestling daily with issues so numerous, so complex, and so intense that I’m not sure I’d have the strength to face any one of them–let alone all of them at once–and all by myself–like you did. I knew you were struggling with these demons. I never saw their faces, but I felt them there. I felt your struggle then. It’s not as though you burdened us with them; it’s not like you failed to keep it all together and out of our sight. You didn’t fail. Thank you for that courage.
That’s right. You didn’t fail.
I was just perceptive to what you were feeling, is all.
Thank you for fighting that fight, and the sacrifices you made in doing so. I may never know the total toll it took, what all you gave up in the process. It’s fruitless to imagine what could have been, but I’m pretty sure that what we have and can gain now is that much more beautiful. Thank you for that opportunity.
If there was one Father’s Day gift I could bring you, it would be to wave a magic wand and ease those demons off your shoulders, and tell you that you did it. You did it right. Keeping the world at bay, wrestling with angry bulls by their horns, while sometimes doubting how much longer you could take it. And just when you thought you couldn’t do any more, you kept going. And going. I would retroactively relieve you of the pressure you were under so that you could do what you wanted to, to be able to relax without guilt, and live with no regrets. You don’t have to harbor those regrets. I would erase them because again, You Did it Right, and thus, there’s nothing to regret.
Now, with all of that behind us, I want to know who you really are. I want to share with you who I’ve become and who I really am. I want to stand beside you and slay any remaining shadows or lingering debris from those demons and play with their carcasses together like cats with mice. I want to laugh with you, share joy with you.
I want to tell you–and for you to truly understand–that I respect you, that I admire you. And for whatever you think you may not have done right that still tugs at you, I want you to know that I’ve long since forgiven you.
I see you as you are now, a lighter, calmer, higher octave of the good man Mom had convinced (the adolescent) me that you were. I see these traits now for myself. You have done incredible work inside, healing, rebuilding, transforming. I’m impressed and amazed daily at how powerful and significant the evolution has been. I think I’m beginning to get to know the real you, the man you were intended to be, the man in the midst of realizing his own true self. And I love what I see. I see a gentle, genuine, complex, deep, loving, multidimensional, quirky, intelligent person. I see vibrant flowers beginning to bud and bloom, beautiful butterflies climbing out from the confines of cocoons, emerging liberated, metamorphosed, and free to fly at last.
In many ways I see streaks of us in each other.
Thank you for those, and for everything else.
I love you.
What does this have to do with perception through an Aspie/autistic lens? On the surface, probably not much. But if one considers the depth of thought and emotion in the average Aspie, and the often-challenging traits of 1) being extremely sensitive, 2) being anxiety-charged, and 3) interpreting communication quite literally, add that to some of my paternal family traits of “work is everything” and not having cultivated many tools for saying what one truly means (especially when it involves emotions, and this goes doubly so for the males)…throw each party into his/her own acutely stressful situations, and , well, it can create the perfect storm for a culture-clash. What’s important is that there’s love underneath and that each person gives the other the right to be seen for who they are today, not for the shortcomings they portrayed years ago. My Dad is someone whom I can be secure with, proud of, and filled with admiration toward.
I had to say these things in writing because, yes, Dad, you’re not alone…sometimes spoken words are hard for me, too ❤