As the children of parents who divorced after thirty-odd years of marriage, we participated in the nasty business of spousal estrangement, which had different ramifications for each of us.
My mom was really a sunny, sweet woman with a darling smile and sparkling eyes, but as the years went by, that all changed. By the time she died of a series of strokes in the year 2000 in her 80’s, her rage at the world and at fate colored her every waking moment. How she changed over the years.
The effects of her hatred did not heal in time to help us or our father. We needed our father. We needed a male presence in our lives, we needed to see the goodness that men do in providing all they provide, in how they depend on their little families for justification for their own existence.
I am not blind to the reality that far too many men are alcoholics and highly destructive in many ways toward their families. But a great many men do their best for their children, and love them passionately and deeply. Indeed, their children are their very reason for living, just the same as it is for most mothers.
To work all his life and find nothing but contempt and scorn from his children when, for the most part, he has done nothing except try to meet their needs, when there is no other human source of comfort or acceptance in his world; to offer money and help, only to be rejected and continually denied warmth or kindness; to be treated as though he had leprosy, never knowing exactly what the problem was…I can’t imagine how he endured it, really.
I was as guilty as anyone, treating him very badly when he offered whatever little he could to be involved in my life, trying to offer advice on the poor quality of men I was becoming involved with.
“I wish you would find someone better than Ray,” he told me once. “I always wanted to dance at your wedding, but you aren’t even getting married. You can do better than this man.”
We were standing at the entrance to Stanley Park that day, in the sun, and I had agreed to meet him there. He had given me a handful of cash to help me out and then spoken the above words.
I looked at him with contempt and dismissed his kindness and his words. I was my mother’s protector; she was right, and he was wrong. He was bad, she was good.
How stupid. Did I have a thought in my head in those days? Obviously not.
As the years went by, and our relationship, though long distance, healed somewhat, I began to realize he was a complex and interesting individual who tried really hard in life, I began to feel angry and horrified at what our mother had done to him and to us.
It’s true, he had done a couple of bad things in his life. No doubt about that. But he felt shame and regret and looked in vain for ways to make up for those explosions of rage, taken out on one of his children. In fact, as that sister-victim grew into maturity, she and dad became close buddies, she and my oldest brother the only two who related to him, or knew who he was. He lost the rest of his children.
Mom’s verbal vitriol toward him never abated, no matter what. She really wanted to return to the Yukon, to her family and start all over. I often wished she would, to give us more peace. Only if she found happiness, could we find peace as a family, even without her. But of course, she loved us and stuck with us despite her awful misery. Looking back, I often wish she had put us all on the Greyhound bus and taken us to the Yukon and gone back to our relatives there, relatives we never did get to know in all our lives.
Why am I writing this? Because it occurred to me the other day that we are all entitled to love others. For someone to say, “THOU SHALT NOT LOVE THIS ONE OR THAT ONE” to vulnerable children is to deny them their birthright.
I yearn for my dad. I remember how he smelled like sawdust and was always outside when he was home, doing things, teaching my oldest brother how to do manly things. Building a road up to the highway so we could walk to the schoolbus, cutting trees and stacking firewood, driving us hither and yon in the old pickup. He had no training for fatherhood, for the sort of kindly fathering and comprehension we all needed, of course. But he did what he could, worked with what little his own father had given him. Couldn’t have been much, considering he never contacted his parents or siblings ever again after he ran away to ride the rails at age 12. But he loved us, that was clear, even though it was imperfect.
I grieve for his suffering, for the contempt we displayed toward him. He was the only father I ever had or ever will have. It wasn’t like we had options. We needed him very much, whether mom liked it or not. We need him still, when the possibility of relationship is dead and gone.
And this is the great, great blessing of knowing how to travel and make contact in the Afterlife. For I am unspeakably rich and fortunate in knowing where my dad is in the great AL, in the Park, in Focus 27, to use the parlance of Robert Monroe. I know what his home is like there, what his two dogs are like, I have sat at his kitchen table there and had coffee from his coffeepot. I have hugged him and cried over him and asked his forgiveness and told him how much I love him, always loved him, needed him, and need him still.
He doesn’t smell of sawdust any more. He looks a lot younger than he used to. And I don’t know a lot about his private life, really, except that he spends time with my oldest brother still today, cooks on a barbecue in his backyard, enjoys the company of my sister, who long, long ago forgave him and made lasting friends with him.
Now, the real shocker came during a Medium reading in 2008, when I was told, “Your mother wants you to know that your father is still a Pain,” the Medium reported faithfully, telling me word for word what my various friends and family were saying to me that day.
This told me a lot of things. It told me that my mom, though she has been working on her issues of course, has not really gotten the whole picture yet. She has been in the Afterlife now for ten years. I love her to death, but I wish she would learn to step aside from the polarity of “I’m right and you’re wrong,” which perhaps is apparently still defining her relationship attitudes.
Still, who can understand their parents? Like trying to read a foreign language. Impossible.
I know that Over There, we have access to amazing psychological help and medical support as well as general counselling by experts…and I do mean, EXPERTS. But the healing is not done by magic or by an angel’s touch. It is the same hard, slogging work it is right here in the physical world today. It takes effort and a quality of fearlessness to expose ourselves to another flawed human and pay them for their insights. On the other side, we don’t have to pay, but we do have to have the same reckless courage it takes in the physical.
So I hope things will change there, the ice will thaw soon. I hope. My dad patiently waits there, in The Park, where he is close to her and close to his family, who have passed over so far. He needed her forgiveness badly as he died an agonizing death from cancer, but she withheld it clearly and volubly, even going to the hospital to make sure he knew it.
To teach children to hate and despise one of those few humans who, in this cold and scary world, belong uniquely to them and vice versa, to deny them the warmth of family, to turn them out into the world bent out of shape, without the building blocks that ONLY the Other parent can provide, to turn one’s children against the Other parent for revenge, no matter what, that is truly a crime against humanity.
I pray for my mother, and that she will quickly grasp the fact that no one is all right or all wrong; that loving a mother or father is a child’s true birthright, inalienable and irrefutable. To say, THOU SHALT NOT LOVE THAT PERSON, is to commit a crime difficult to confine to the boundaries of mere words.
This applies to many situations; it applies to Moslem men who kill their sisters, daughters, women, who want to live differently or who are disobedient to the family faith. Having murdered her, they then deny that victim’s siblings, who love her, the right to love her, memorialize her, or even speak of her.
It applies to any parent who fills any child’s head with black pictures of the worthlessness of their Other parent. To any sibling who invents stories and false legends about other siblings, where perhaps jealousy has been a bugbear while growing up.
We have few to help us in this world; those who share our blood should take care that every child has loving, comfortable access to parents, aunts, uncles, and other siblings who can support their pilgrimage through this life.
No one is perfect, and many are grossly imperfect; yet, if the quality and extent of their genuine LOVE toward their own were put under a microscope and examined, it would be found to be as pure as any found in Heaven. The vessel may be flawed, but love is far too precious to throw out like old dishwater. And there is not nearly enough of it. We count our money as though every penny was our last, but we recklessly and thoughtlessly abuse the hearts that need us and care for us.
Another example is the son or daughter who never visit their elderly, failing parents; who place them in care homes and walk away, never to return. (And there are many such adult children in our western world.) However flawed that parent may have been, if the adult child could find a way to evaluate the quality of the love extended toward them from that neglected mother or father, they would be stunned to think they have so underestimated how valued they are and how precious they are, to that one person in the whole world.
When our parents die, there is no one to take their place in feeling a real depth of love and appreciation toward us. To think our parents don’t care about us is usually a great mistake. OK, there are exceptions, but most parents find it so hard to tell their kids how deeply they feel toward them.
No amount of money can bring someone back when they are gone. No job benefits or nice car or fabulous home can replace that one person who adored us no matter how we have done in the world.
No one else will ever care that much about us again.
Take care of your parents. You and they are going to be around for thousands of years and more…in the Aferlife. What happens here must be faced and dealt with there.
And never, ever deny any of your children the presence and enjoyment of their opposite parent. Or any other remotely decent relative. We need all the resources we can get in this world, and love is the scarcest resource of them all.