Friday, October 22, 2010

Lesson from my father

Is there someone you love and that person is passionate about something? Maybe that person does beautiful needlework, or is a marvelous calligrapher, or restores old cars. Maybe you're not interested in needlework, calligraphy, or old cars. How do you respond to that person when he or she wishes to share what they're doing with you?

Maybe they say, "Hey! Look at what I made last week. Isn't this cool?" You may not give a rat's ass about the work, but you love this person and this person's enthusiasm. So you look. You admire. You ask questions. You learn about what they're doing. You give that person feedback.

Yesterday I was showing my father my work. Five examples of this, five of that, for maybe three minutes. Midway through he says, "okay, interesting," and then goes to his recliner and turns on the television. Really loud. I pack up my stuff and leave.

He has always been this way. All my life. I should expect nothing more. I should be over this by now, but it still hurts.

So now I look at ME. Am I doing the same thing, unwittingly, to others? To Chris? Am I feigning interest or, worse, indifference? Are we all guilty of this, that unbeknownst to us, our loved ones are looking for our acknowledgment, validation, approval and we're oblivious to it?

Those of you with children, take a look at your reactions to their requests for you to "hey, look at this!" And what about our friends? Are we so jaded, so familiar with their work, that we're not giving enough to them? And our spouses/partners? Are we taking them for granted?

My father's attitude over the years has hurt and continues to hurt. But yesterday's scenario taught me something about me. Maybe I'm more like him than I think. As a result, I am now determined to take note of my responses to others' requests for attention. Because this kind of hurt stays with the person. Maybe over the course of a lifetime.

I return home tomorrow. To a quiet, clean, clutter-free environment, to loving arms and a heart that loves me unconditionally, to a relatively drama-free life. I can hardly wait. ©Carol Leigh


  1. Carol,

    Your post touched my heart deeply. My father passed away in June. So many of his last years were spent in a recliner watching TV. He could be quite self-absorbed. He was a good man. He could be generous, funny, kind - yet also hurtful. I never understood why he belittled my mother so when she was alive. Yet he mourned her passing deeply the remaining 15 years of his life. My father and I became closer after my mother's death, but still, I never felt he knew very much about me. I don't think he was much interested. I loved him, but I was relieved when he finally died. He was definitely suffering his last months. And I felt so guilty I could not care for him more because of my own illness. After the funeral, my tears were over. I know enough about grief to know how unpredictable it can be, but why didn't I feel more sadness? Why, when my own daughter cried so easily at losing her grandfather, were my eyes dry? Well, they were anyway, until I read your blog. Thanks for sharing your own thoughts and thereby releasing my own grief. It's all part of the healing.

    I wonder, does your father did not see the "value" of art, which is so much at the core of your being? Would he have been more interested if you were a boy?

    I try to understand why my father did hurtful things and have come up with a few answers that satisfy me partly. Mostly, though, I don't think he meant to cause the hurt he did. I can forgive him.

    One thing I am sure of, Carol. You are not like your father. You might be trying to ease your hurting by looking for the lesson. That's admirable and we could all benefit from remembering to be attuned to others. But I know enough about you just from following you for years on the internet and purchasing some materials years ago, that you are a generous, loving person interested in life and those around you. Chris does not give you unconditional love - he loves you because you are loving and giving to him. Chris is probably a very good person, but you deserve the love he gives you. (I have my own Chris. We are lucky women.)

    Sometimes we cause hurt in others just by not saying what is in our hearts. I remember my mother's friend telling me how my mother would tell her what a good mother I was. Why didn't she ever tell me that? I never knew what she thought. But I remember that omission and make a point of telling my own daughter what I admire in her. Being a good mother is one of those things.

    You are the warm, caring person you are partly because of what you did not get from your father. You know how it feels. What is hurtful to you opens your heart to others. Those around you are the beneficiaries.

  2. You and I have/had the same father. I know exactly what you are talking about.


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