I wrote this blog just before my father passed. As I re-read it now, it is very poignant. I have no regrets between the two of us and feel complete. In fact, as his last years were so difficult, I feel much relief with his passing.
"There is always tension between the possibilities we aspire to and our wounded memories and past mistakes.”
Throughout this year, I have been going over memories and stories and thoughts and feelings regarding my father and his legacy and entwined them with stories in my life and with my patients. It is already November as I am coming close to the end of this year of writing, my father is also coming closer to the end of his life.
When we are nearing the end of anything often many bitter/sweet memories begin to swirl in our minds. Often at our death beds our main thoughts revolve around our families. We hold on to life for them, we reach out to them, we yearn for them, and so much more. As we near the end of something rich, we have a much larger perspective with which to view our work, our relationships, and our lives.
I have learned and also have experienced personally and with my patients that the more we have had difficulty with something or someone, those very aspects we have the most trouble with are the ones which we re-create in some form. This happens because we have scrutinized those things we dislike and we know them so well. We try so hard to be different, to do things differently and yet, there is also a part of us that loves, even blindly, even in a very deep hidden place, that person we are so conflicted with, or that career we so hated. So those aspects we disliked the most can squeeze out of us in ways we don’t like to see or acknowledge. Here we also have the makings of a blind spot within us. We all have them. At the end of things, we sometimes can more easily see these blind places.
With my father, as I have written, he is a very complex man and inside of me are complex emotions regarding him. Yet as his life is waning, I find that also some good memories are surfacing inside of me. Baseball is a popular sport here in America and it was a favorite sport of my fathers. As I have been enjoying the season this year, a memory is so very vivid in my mind; a good memory.
This event takes place in the 1960’s and the St. Louis Cardinals were in the World Series. At that time, bleacher seats were on sale only at the start of the series. They could not be purchased beforehand. They were available at a first come first available basis. My dad was excited about the series and wanted to go to a World Series game. His excitement was palpable and infectious. We slept out all night so that we could get tickets to a game. All four of us, me and my siblings, went with him. We played catch that evening and brought food to eat as we stood in line waiting for the next day’s excitement and anticipating tickets to the game. We had brought sleeping bags and pillows with us and camped out on the pavement. I remember having fallen asleep and was rudely awakened by my head hitting the pavement. A group of people had stampeded the line and someone had taken the pillow out from behind my head. By the time we reached the box office, all the tickets were already given out. We were so disappointed, and my father was angry. To make up for it, he took us all out for breakfast at my favorite pancake house. He later wrote Anheuser-Busch a letter documenting what had happened and that because of the early morning rush on the line, we had lost our chance at series tickets. Instead of sitting in bleacher seats for the game, we received from Anheuser-Busch great seats behind home plate and thoroughly enjoyed the game.
Again, as his life is waning, I am so filled with memories of my life with him; good and bad and ugly. This memory is one of my best. To this day, I love the game of baseball. No longer am I aware of mainly bad memories, or of idealized memories; but I am swimming in many of the good things he has given me and has influenced me in my life.
Small Lifestyle Changes that Promote Big Results:
Think about a situation or a person that and who has influenced you. What good memories surface for you? What did and do you like about that person or event?
Focus for a minute now on someone important to you that you are conflicted about. Let all the memories surface; the good and the bad or difficult. If mostly difficult memories surface for you, let them come and in your mind’s eye, just as easily let them go. Keep doing this until they have slowed down. After these memories, open your mind to anything that is a good memory or even a neutral memory. Maybe your mother was aloof and abusive, and maybe she was also funny or did something for you or you did together that was good, or that you learned from her. As they begin to flow, let them come and don’t stop or censor them. Then, if any stick out in your mind, write them down so that you have a written record of them. It is easier for our brains to remember our hurts and pains, and less easy for us to remember good and helpful things. This exercise can help us to remember some of the better ones.