As a younger person I used to think that all of my problems could be solved. There was a light at the end of every tunnel if I just talked it through or gained the correct insights or wept enough tears. Those were more hopeful times and yet there was a burden in that assumption as well. I worked so diligently toward that future that often I missed out on the blessings of the moment.
I no longer believe in a “better Barbara” out there in the future. I’m at peace with the unsolvable aspects of my story. I will live around some scars for the rest of my days – and do so joyfully and well.
My dad was a complicated guy. He was raised in the Depression and went marching off to World War II fresh out of high school. I can’t imagine what that experience must have been like for a tall (6’8”), nerdy boy from Des Moines, Iowa. His height kept him out of combat, but he saw the grisly results of it in his work at a hospital in India. Mom recently told me that he came back from his four years at war quite changed.
Dad loved routine, cigarettes, growing vegetables, being funny, collecting rocks – and above all, cutting, splitting, stacking and burning wood in our two woodstoves. Like many men of his generation, he was emotionally remote. His occasional flashes of anger were terrifying and his sarcasm, deadly.
Many things healed as I walked through his dying journey with him in 1991. He got sweeter in those last three months of his life. I forgave him everything by the time he took his last breath in my arms. Despite that blessed time, his harshness during my childhood is one of those lingering scars I assumed would be part of me forever.
And then along came Jim. I first met Jim in the 1990’s when he would come to my office to meet with my colleague. We became friends much later when his daughter reconnected us. By that time, Jim was in his 80’s and crusading for positive aging wherever he went. We got together to design a circle exploring community singing at his senior apartment complex….and instantly became friends.
What struck me most during our friendship was how warm and affectionate Jim was with me. He told me – eyes twinkling with fondness – that I was “beauty-full.” He told me he loved me often. I cuddled in close whenever I could, even when he was spending most of his time in a wheelchair. And, oh how we sang…with great gusto and fine harmony.
Through that flood of loving words, gazes, songs and gestures, Jim gradually healed the father wound I thought I’d carry through the rest of my days. I am so glad I got to thank him for that before he died a few months ago at 93.
Jim was a loving force in many lives. How blessed I am that mine was one of them.