I had an amazing and unexpected moment today. One that consolidated a number of feelings and confirmed my understanding of some of my pains and longings.
I took my elderly father to the Doctor this morning for a routine visit. By way of background, Dad is in his late 80’s, a non-drinking alcoholic (on a dry drunk for a number of years due to lack of availability of alcohol due to his lack of mobility). Dad needs assistance walking and uses a wheeled walker. I am the youngest sibling and a very late child… my parents in their 40s when I was born.
Dad has been a very ominous figure in my life. We did not have a conventional parent/child relationship due to him and my Mom being divorced and his working out of town. In addition, his alcoholism and anger issues made him entirely difficult and complicated to be around. He only passed through my life occastionally during my teen years.
My relationship with him, or lack thereof, has impacted and defined much of my life. There were positive too. I know that deep down he loved me and he did his best to express his love with gifts and whatever encouragement he was capable of.
Dad is also a WW2 combat veteran and former POW. He seldom talks about these experiences and I can’t help but imagine how life-defining these were for him. So I do my best not to judge or resent his behaviour, even though I have felt a lot of pain over it.
When we arrived at the Dr.’s office, Dad had to walk the length of my truck to get to his walker awaiting on the sidewalk at the tailgate of the truck. Parking was tight and the walker would not fit between my vehicle and the one beside us, so Dad has to walk bracing himself on the two vehicles.
At one point, the vehicles on either side were not reachable so I held my hands out. Dad grabbed my forearms and I grabbed his so he could walk with my assistance. I walked backward as we held forearms for about 6 feet which took maybe 30 seconds. This was the amazing moment.
Having felt a sense of absence of my father during my childhood, and always having had a longing for a father and guide throughout my adult life, I finally had a moment with my father where we had physical contact and walked essentially arm in arm.
Now I know our roles are by now reversed, where I assist and care for him, versus him caring for and assisting me, but the connection still happened. This brief moment represented to me what I always wanted… to walk arm in arm with my father. To be there for one another. To share strength in a time of weakness.
In that moment, I felt no pain, no regret, no longing or loss. In that moment, I felt, “Wow, I have a Dad, and he needs me right now, and I can be here for him”.
It didn’t matter that he was seldom there for me growing up, or that I spent most of my young adult life looking for male role models to fill the father role in my life. I was just grateful and happy in that moment.
I have a son too. He means the world to me. I catch myself trying to be everything to him that I wish I had when I was his age. I often parent him out of my own pain. I know this is dangerous ground. Yet I know he knows I am there for him as much as I can.
I am so grateful for that moment with my Dad today. I know I can never forecast when God is going to drop an amazing moment on me or what he will show me in it.