My dad turns 90 today. I’ve spent much of my life trying to understand, resist or change him. The irony is that my journey has never been about him—it has always been about me. That’s hard for me to say because it feels like surrender. Turns out, I have some Harold in me. He’s a man who needs to be right (a stubborn Swede). However, the problem with win/loose relationships is that no one ever wins.
Over the last couple of years I have come to appreciate a different understanding of surrender—I have had glimpses of forgiveness. This is not a religious kind of forgiveness. There is no judgment based on right and wrong. This forgiveness has no interest in moral high ground or blame because it is not about the other person. It is about the gift I give myself when I let go. There are miracles on the other side of letting go—you see things—things that “holding on” have prevented you from really seeing.
The following vignette, from one of dad's hospitalizations, is one of those moments.
Dad called the house this morning sounding disorientated and frustrated. It was a strange conversation. “The door was locked,” he said with irritation. Mom assumed that he was confused and replied, “Harold, you’re not at home. You’re in the hospital in Eau Claire.” He insisted, “I couldn’t get in,” and then added, “I just wanted to give my wife a kiss.” Mom shook her head and smiled, “I’ll be there soon.” She hung up the phone and we decided that he wasn’t disorientated—he knew where he was—he just wasn’t where he wanted to be.
When we arrived in the hospital room, mom held on to her walker and stood as straight as she could; “Good morning dear.” A nurse was trying to adjust the nasogastric tube in his nose. Dad’s face lit up as he turned his head towards mom. “Oh, here’s my beloved wife,” he almost sang to the nurse. His cheeks had lost their handsome padding and his arms looked so small in the loose fabric of the hospital gown. Plastic tubes sprouted from him like tentacles. The nurse looked at mom and smiled, “Someone has been missing you.” Mom slowly moved from her walker to the side of the bed. With one hand on the bed to steady her she leaned towards dad. He opened his mouth like a hungry baby chick and on cue mom opened her mouth too. They lip-locked in a long and shaky kiss.
Everyone in the room watched—I was compelled to look and wondered if I should look away. I felt like an eight-year-old who had caught his parents in an intimate act. It was amazing—sixty-three years of marriage and these two people still felt this kind of love and passion. My parents’ big kiss ended with a lip smacking pop. It sounded like a champagne cork—a celebration. My eyes glazed over with mist as I settled into a sweet knowing—I have been conceived, cradled and raised by two people in love.
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.