On Sunday, social media was filled with pictures and touching tributes to dads everywhere.
I couldn’t bring myself to post anything on Father’s Day about the man I love beyond words. I’m not sure why it was so difficult for me but I suspect it had to do with the fact that my dad recently moved into a nursing home and I am struggling to accept the decline that led him there.
It’s painful to see him sitting in a wheelchair in a strange place, on a FaceTime call 3,000 miles away.
In years past, I have proudly posted pictures of my handsome, brilliant, and brave father but yesterday I kept him close to me. I know how lucky I am to still have him around, but watching this icon of strength failing physically and cognitively hurts to the core. I ache to hear him discuss the political situation, to analyze a scene from a Trollope novel, to dispense simple wisdom about my kids, or to sing a favorite Cole Porter tune. I wonder if he ever will.
But in the moments when my dad’s true nature reveals itself, I am overcome with tenderness.
He still starts every conversation with “hello, my beautiful daughter”. He never fails to talk about how lucky he is to have such an amazing family. And his focus remains on what he has, and not what he is losing or has lost. At the end of every conversation, my dad thanks me for my thoughtfulness, for being in touch, for being me. He never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
It feels like I am standing on one side of a riverbank desperately trying to reach the other side, extending my leg in mid-air, but unable to reach the other side. I can ALMOST feel him and the deep connection we have but then he fades, forgets what we were talking about, and closes his eyes.
These words from the author Harper Lee, particularly resonated with me: She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father."
It is true that I was unable to communicate the complicated emotions I feel at this moment in life with a pithy post, accompanied by a picture of an easier time. But I did practice meditation by allowing myself to be fully present, watching the sadness bubble up and be released, crying uncontrollably for a long time.
I thought of my dad the whole day; fully in touch with what a difference he has made in my life. He has been my teacher, my cheerleader, my rock. I have learned how to be resilient, curious, thoughtful, open-minded, strong, and determined from him.
I breathed in long, slow deep breaths of appreciation and exhaled the fear of losing him.
The importance of acknowledgment, particularly of those we love deeply, became clearer than ever. I hope that all of you celebrated Father’s Day in a way that felt right for you. I hope that you remember to acknowledge and show appreciation for all those who have guided you, taught you, encouraged you, supported you, and contributed to you. Our mothers, our fathers, our friends, our children, and yes, even those we consider enemies, are our teachers, our healers, our reminders of who we can become. Reach out to someone who has been there for you in a difficult time and thank them. Send a note to someone who has made sacrifices on your behalf. Call a friend and share your love for them for no particular reason. And tell your mother or father how much you have learned from them.
We are all connected. Keep those connections alive.
This is the moment.