In the last six months my father’s health has begun to decline, nothing imminent but enough to bring it to my awareness that we have more days behind us than in front of us.
In August I went to see him for several days. I went wanting to make sure that I could have a conversation, one that would hopefully bring closure. I wanted to make sure that he knows what he means to me and that despite the difficulties we have had along the way, I am grateful to have had him as my father.
During that August trip that conversation didn’t happen for several reasons and more pressing things that needed to be dealt with. My father is independent, stubborn, and tends to give of himself to everyone around him. He is constantly helping others and doesn’t for one minute like to accept help for himself. It is this part of him that I ran squarely into as I tried during that trip to ensure that he wasn’t shoveling his own snow this winter or that of all his immediate neighbors which is something he has always done.
As I evaluated options for services that would make it easier for him to choose not to go out in the cold, snow, and ice throughout the winter I kept hearing him say. “I don’t need that; I can handle those things just fine.”
I tried to have a conversation about all the things that I could see happening. Falls on the ice. Broken hips. The loss of independence.
I listed all the things that my father refuses to see as possibilities. As I was talking to him, trying to get him to see the risks I also saw in him his will, his independence and I recognize it in myself.
It is the part of me that when I want something, in my mind I see it happening, I see the outcome, I feel how I will feel upon having that outcome and through this process I close the doors in my mind to any other possibility being an option. This process has served me very well.
My father, while not consciously, was doing this same thing, for all I know he may have taught me how to do this through his example from early in my life. That possibility I had never contemplated until now as I write this.
How could I take him out of the very process that sees me through things while also trying to offer options for managing the risks that still existed? I decided that I needed to provide my father with options that he could choose to care for things but ultimately leave it up to him to make those decisions. I needed to trust him with his own journey through this time and be available if he needs my help.
So, the closure conversation never happened in August, as I prepared to go back to visit before the holidays, I felt a more pressing need to have this conversation so ahead of time I asked for us to have some time together, just the two of us.
I suggested that we take a drive to Tawas, the town or towns (Tawas City and East Tawas, Michigan) where my father had grown up and I had spent my own adolescent years. My father agreed to get a friend of theirs to stay with his wife who is not able to stay on her own to allow for our time.
The week leading up to Christmas I flew to Michigan ahead of an impending once in a century storm that would bring snow, ice and well below zero temperatures. It was mother nature’s reminder of why I had moved away many years ago.
When I arrived that Monday, my father immediately told me that with the coming storm any drive to Tawas would need to wait until next time, perhaps in the spring or summer he suggested. Then he told me that all their friends were either in Florida for the winter or traveling with family but there was simply no one available to stay with his wife. In moments I saw my entire plan for time with him unravel.
The next morning, I got up early to try to catch time with my dad before his wife got up. I managed to have a few minutes but at every word that I tried to take toward the topic of his health, or his time being limited in some way, he let me know in his mind he has plenty of time.
There would be no conversation for closure.
The next afternoon I was meeting a San Diego friend in Ann Arbor for the afternoon since he was also in Michigan visiting family for the holiday. As we sat and talked about the situation, he said something that shifted my approach entirely.
He said, “Well you clearly have a need to make sure that you are in a good place with your dad if something were to happen but what if your dad is never available for that conversation? Is there a way for you to get the closure that you need without the participation of your father?”
This question was the exact redirection that I needed. The next day I spent some time writing and in contemplation on these questions.
- What did I need to have the closure that I was seeking?
- What did I want my father to know from me if this were the last time that we would speak?
- What is the most important thing that I can do for my father at this stage in his life?
It was through the writing that I realized that what I was seeking through closure was a desire to let my father know that he is loved, that I am grateful to call him my father, that I feel that I am a better person because he was my father.
Then I asked myself if I thought my father already knew those things and I really felt that he does. Through the conversations over the years, I have expressed this, through our telephone calls now I convey this, through the things that I do to make his life easier even from far away he knows this. He knows this because this is what I am conveying to him through how I show up in relationship.
It was in this moment when I realized this that the pressure of having some big conversation to find closure disappeared. I had gotten to the very state of closure that I was seeking. Most importantly now I could just relax and be present for the rest of the journey no matter how long that is.
Is there anything that you are seeking closure on?
I hope my experience and the questions that I asked get you thinking or writing or both. Here are a few questions for you to ponder in your favorite journal or in your morning shower.
- Is there anything that I need closure on?
- What would bring me that closure?
- How can I get the closure that I am seeking without the participation of anyone else? (Remembering that this closure is your need and may not be the need of another.)
- What is the most important thing that I can do in this situation?
I blog because I love the process of posing questions to myself, pushing myself to uncover those deep answers in the power of the words. I love forcing myself to grow in this way. If you want to question yourself, then subscribing to my email list will ensure you have an opportunity to do that.
I blog about once a month, although I am considering twice but either way you will not receive a ton of emails from me, only what I hope to be the best questions that we can ask ourselves to be better tomorrow than we were today or at least to know ourselves better.
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