Later That Night…

This makes much more sense if you’ve read the blog entry called Mind, New Mind, Another Mind Altogether which is just below this one. 

This is about me and my dad.  This is the last picture I have of him.

He’s standing in front of the produce section of the Grand Union Supermarket in Bloomfield, Connecticut.  Dad kept this job, commuting a couple of hours a day on city busses to and from our flat in Hartford until it was time for him to retire, check into the hospital, live for a while with cancer and then die just before I would be graduated from college and come home wanting and needing to tell him I knew nothing and would he please explain to me what it meant to be a man and where one found the courage to be that.

Now it’s 48 years later.  It’s evening in the Chan Hall, Dharma Drum Retreat Center, Pine Bush, NY.  I’ve had dinner, rested, sat in silent meditation for a while, exercised, sat silently again and now it’s time for walking meditation.  I stand, this time not at all anticipating pains in my hip and feet, not at all feeling anger toward anyone, no fear of death or self-hatred for fearing death.  Just standing up to begin walking meditation.  A quick thought, “Is this me?” comes and goes faster than I can tell it.  We begin to walk at “normal walking” pace.  Something is happening.

No more than 10 steps into walking meditation I am aware of an intense presence at my immediate left.  It is entirely too soon for anyone to be passing me.  I look again.  The space is clearly empty–but it’s not.  There is someone next to me.  Invisible to me as well as to the others, he is my father.  Yes, unmistakably my father.  Without hesitation I reach out my left hand and feel him take it.  Hand in hand we walk in meditation around the Chan Hall for the next 15 minutes.  I talk.  He listens, assuring me all the while that he hears clearly, heart to heart, all I say and don’t say.

I tell him I love him and miss him.  Softly he lets me know that’s not all I want to say.

“Go ahead,” he urges.  “Go ahead.”  I tell him how I hate that he died when I needed him most, that–yeah, I know it was cancer and he didn’t choose it–still he abandoned me, left me to a fear and hopelessness that resulted in 20 years of terror covered over by alcohol, pot and cocaine.

“Yes,” he says.  “But there’s more.  Tell me more.”

“Yes,” I say.  “There is more.”

“Say it,” he encourages without emotion.

“I’ll say it,” my voice growling now.  “Don’t worry, I’ll say it.” My mouth twists and quivers.  My voice chokes, cracks dry.  I clear my throat.  “Even when you were there you WEREN’T there!”  I’m scared now, scared to continue and scared to stop.  “You were at work or eating dinner or reading the Hartford Times or asleep in the easy chair in front of the TV.  On weekends you’d spend Saturdays walking around on Main Street meeting and greeting all your buddies or up in the pool room doing the same damn’ thing.  On Sundays you’d be at Grandma’s or watching a ball game with Uncle Jack or playing rummy or some such shit.  You never had time for me.  You never listened to me or asked me anything about my life.  You never taught me anything.”

I felt his eyes lower.  His hand grew warmer in mine and almost tense, as if he were struggling not to speak.  I started to feel guilty and wanted to take back what I’d said.  But that, of course, was impossible.  Words uttered in silence are not retractable.  Nothing now but silence enveloping us, uniting us.  And then an image so clear of my hand in his, the year perhaps 1950, my fingers still sticky from late night ice cream as we walked home in the chill night air from the bus stop after a Hartford Chiefs night game at Bulkeley Stadium…

…the image of him standing alert at the edge of the water as a friend of his taught me to swim…

…of him in the cafeteria of West Middle School being an assistant Cub Scout leader when he was too tired to stand after a day of work on his feet…

…the image of us in the refrigerated room below the Hartford Market where he would make fancy baskets of fruit to be given as gifts to folks going on cruises or dying in hospitals, him telling me he worked hard so I wouldn’t have to…

…of him sitting on the couch, my mother’s sleeping head on his shoulder when I returned after midnight from my first high school party…

…an image of him walking into the Wooster pool room while I was trying to show everybody there just how cool I was and beating my ass at game after game after game of 8 ball…

…of me all IvyLeagued up and home from my fancy-assed college for the weekend, him telling me to phone my grandmother just to say hello…

For fifteen minutes we walked, me talking and him listening, him making me feel safe and heard.  Tears falling inward, clearing the path so obscured for those 48 years.  Him, I think, feeling a father’s courage to be a father, to hear the truth knowing it will lead to the deeper truth, and, for the two of us, the joy of love flowing freely again.

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Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm  Comments (16)  

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Richard, Thank you for sharing this profound experience with us. It reminds me what transformation can happen when we make space and time for listening with an open heart. love,
    ilana

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  2. Saul often jokes about the bliss of the unexamined life but your blog has proved him so wrong. How wonderful to feel the presence of your Dad in such a healing and open way. My heart sings for you and for him. Love Esther

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  3. Poignant, compelling, emotionally draining, and thank you very much.
    feel better and I’ll see you soon!

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  4. My father died on Flag Day 1976 and that sometimes falls on Fathers Day. He lives in every molecule of my existence. My daddy is beautiful.

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  5. This from Rozanne:

    am speechless
    Because I had a silent experience in my kitchen this morning — a similar one with my mother who died 5-1/2 years ago. I talked to her in a similar way today that you spoke to your father. I am in awe of your ability to write about it and share it, Richard. These things need to be said, out loud/silently, to heal everyone. I saw your father in that photo, Richard. I really did. And I liked seeing him in the store, too. It sounds as though your retreat was pretty extraordinary. For both you, and your father. What a gift. Thank you.
    x
    Rozanne Gold

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  6. From Susan Huszar:

    Hi Richard:

    Thank you for this….and for your honesty.
    it’s such a joy to read your beautiful writing.

    Sue

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  7. From Annie:

    beautiful, richardxx

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  8. From Hannah Cheseaux Middelmann: i love your strength that you would not think of as strength! miss you richard

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  9. This from Denise:
    I enjoyed this posting.

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  10. Hi Richard,
    I am so grateful for the gift of your writing.
    Be well my friend.
    Much love,
    Gerry Brooks

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  11. Dick..thanks for sharing your journeys however I must say on this one, love you my Brother. Dad was always holding your hand and you were able to feel it so profoundly..A Father’s love can always be revisited…YES!

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  12. Compelling. Thank you.

    the mad russian

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  13. thanks so much for sharing your journey, all the textures come through loud and clear. mostly, your vibrant energy.

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  14. Hi Richard
    > just a note to let you know how moving and beautifully written I found your
    > second installment on silent retreat
    > the piece about your Dad……straight from the heart…..
    >
    > thanks
    >
    > karuna

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  15. Jeanne Lane commented: Your latest blog is very meaningful and wonderful and touching. Glad you took us along on that walk with your Dad.

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  16. What powerful and moving words. Thank you for sharing your words about your father. Wow. Truly Vivid. Truly beautiful.

    Like


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