|One of my favorite photos of my dad - circa 1970|
But there is no one I admire more than my father. No one I would turn to but him when it comes to a question about my writing or a book I read that I want to discuss. He is the first one I go to when it come to a desire to understand or delve deeper into something metaphysical, spiritual or just plain "alternative".
I often joke that the reason I am so completely un-athletic (to the point of not even knowing how to ride a bike) is because my father was only interested in taking me to museums and art-house films when I was a kid. In some ways, this is true. Those are things he loves. And I wanted to be with him, I wanted him to love me and share with me.
My father delved deeply into hallucinogenic drugs in the late 60's and early 70's. This was partly because of the culture of the time and partly an attempt to reach his schizophrenic brother on an even playing field. He struggled with brief, but intense, anxiety attacks which he was able to keep from everyone, including my mother. At one point, while we were living in England, my mother took me back to New York to visit my grandparents and my father entered a meditation retreat. There his attacks intensified. On a subsequent trip to London, where he intended to sell our car and then return to New York, he experienced a terrifying mental breakdown that went on for two weeks, until he was arrested and put in jail with some Irish hippies who had taken him in. By the time my mother and I returned to London, he was back to normal. I was just about the age my children are now when all of this happened. I don't remember this period, yet when I write about it, it makes me cry. Perhaps because I have no real memories of my own, the jumbled stories and bits of information I’ve put together over the years have colored this time for me. I know he was careful to not take acid when I was around, and even my mother didn’t know he was having these panic attacks, but I wonder if my 4-year old self sensed the trouble and it laid some groundwork for our later struggles to connect.
As a young girl, my father taught me to love books. By that I mean not just the words, but the books themselves. I remember him showing me, with great care, how books were bound, how some paper was more beautiful to the touch than others, how each type of font gave a different feel to the words we read. Every wall in our apartment was lined, floor to ceiling, with books. He read voraciously, always collecting more; from used book stores, from piles of "freebies" left on the curb, and later, from online booksellers. Parting with them (at my mother's insistence) was like asking him to give away a piece of himself.
|My dad and me during the father/daughter |
dance at my wedding.
As I grew older I think my natural need to push him away, my confusion about how he felt about me and his super sensitivity to feeling dismissed led us to go through a long period of emotional separation. Living away from home during college helped me see my parents in a different light. As a kid, my father's long hair and hippie style embarrassed me. Meeting other people who had "straight" parents helped me see how cool my dad actually was. Growing older, going through a divorce, therapy and intense soul-searching led me to understand my father and my relationship to him much better. And I can't take all the credit. My father has spent years figuring himself out as well.
|My kids LOVE Papa Jah|
Father's Day is on Sunday. My dad was never one for "Hallmark Holidays", but it's a perfect chance for me to tell him that I know I chose him to be my dad for a reason and I know whatever struggles we have had (together and separately) have served to make us better people. And most of all, it's a chance to tell him thank you for teaching me that being a good parent means sticking with it, even when it's hard.
I'd love to hear what your fathers have taught you. Leave a message in the comments below so we can celebrate your dads, too. And happy Father's Day to you all!
Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach
For those of you waiting for my summary of Dr. Tina Payne Bryson's workshop last weekend, I'm working on it now and hope to have it up over the weekend! Thanks to all of you who shared my post on Dan Siegel's lecture!
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