"God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble."
Last week when the Hospice social worker was here dad and I got in a discussion that was deep and painful. Even the lady whose job it was to keep us focused got a little lost. It wasn't so much like a volcano that suddenly erupted; more like a pot of water you put on the stove. First it gets hot, then little bubbles start to come to the top, then it's boiling away. To continue that metaphor, as we talked I believe all three of us looked for a lid to keep the hot water from splashing over the top.
I cried - nothing new there. Yet through my tears I couldn't help but notice how uncomfortable my father was. It was clear emotional discussions are not his forte. He couldn't keep his hands still, or look above the table cloth. In typical fashion when he is not at ease, Dad tried to end the conversation by saying it was not needed.
In spite of the pain of the moment I had a clear image of how things have always been in my family. Emotions are negated, closed down, stuffed away. Give my dad a problem to solve that involves math, money, or logic and he's the man for the job. Throw something a little more emotional his way, i.e. unwed pregnancy, death, illness, divorce, and he's just not sure what to do beyond taking the initial steps to smooth over the troubled waters. Once the wound is scabbed over, no one mentions it again.
For example, in 1967 my 17 year old sister got pregnant. As was the custom in those days she was hustled off to finish school have the baby, and put it up for adoption. She lived close enough that we could go visit her which we did once or twice during that long summer. I still carry around a vision of her sitting at the top of a slide that ended in a motel swimming pool. Seven or eight months preggers, big as a proverbial barn, becoming an adult before she was ready, laughing like the kid she still was. We all enjoyed what I thought was a very strange family vacation. I also thought that I was the only one who thought it strange. It was not the first time I wondered what was wrong with me.
When the holiday was over we said our goodbyes, got in the car and drove home. I don't know what my sister did. Did she cry? Breathe a sigh of relief? Cuss my father? Beg someone to let her come home? I only know that no one in the car driving home said one word about the "situation." However, it wasn't long before I had my first real bout of depression. Although I'd like to believe my parents addressed this situation from an emotional point of view in the private, but they certainly never did with the daughters at home. At the time I knew two things. It was NOT okay to talk about it. And, for me, it was NOT not okay to talk about it. I was not comfortable seeing that the emperor was not wearing any clothes, and I was certainly not bold enough to suggest it to anyone. I learned to play the game. (Not well, but the best I could)
Coming back to the present, as the social worker tried to bring us to a place of quiet, if not peace. Dad bravely asked if there was such a thing as father/daughter counseling (my stomach lurched - wanting and doing are two different things) and also mentioned he'd like to have a conversation with a man of the cloth.
All this leads up to the fact that as I write this Dad and the hospice chaplain, Grant, are at the kitchen table. Sweetie is outside "watching" his son disassemble an old and reassemble a new shed. I'm in my bedroom, feeling a light weight off my shoulders. I won't deny that a part of me is a little worried that I am somehow the cause for my dad's spiritual pain, that I'm not the daughter or caregiver he needs to see him through his final days.
I know that worry is unfounded. I know this step that Dad has taken is part of his process. Dad needs a plan, a road map. I believe his asking for spiritual guidance, his willingness to talk about what's on his heart, is a part of his letting go. I pray that the chaplain can answer his questions and bring him peace. I don't know what will happen next. I think this is one of those times I have to just let life take its course.
Wishing for you a willingness to speak from your heart and someone to listen,