I am beginning to understand my Dad better, now that he's passed and is hopefully in heaven and I'm taking care of Mom. I used to get so frustrated with him whenever I was expressing something about which I was very serious, very concerned (whether it was relationships, work, ministry, writing, etc.), that I wanted him to understand, and he'd respond by asking me if I had enough gas in my car. I felt as if he didn't understand me or what I was trying to communicate and that he cared only about the practical realities of life and was unable to go deeper. I guess I felt somewhat invalidated.
I see my Mom suffering and I try to help her as best as I can--giving her the heating pad, making or bringing lunch, making coffee or tea, massaging her back with Ben Gay, and just being there to listen and be present and pray and ask others to pray. With all my heart I want to PROTECT her, SHIELD her, and MAKE EVERYTHING ALL RIGHT. But my ability to do this is very limited and I feel helpless. I want to protect her but I can't. So the one thing that I can do when my ability to protect is being limited is to default to another role that I can do a little more successfully: to PROVIDE. So I try to anticipate whatever Mom might need from the supermarket or from CVS (drug store) and I shop for her. At least, besides helping her, this makes me feel less helpless and more like I'm making a difference. I can't control her pain or health issues but I CAN try to make sure Mom has everything she needs in the house. As the saying goes, "When the going gets tough, the tough GO SHOPPING!"
So now I realize that my Dad felt that there wasn't much he could do about my work, relationship issues, ministries, etc. and that his role of protector was limited when I was hurting. A good Dad is a protector and a provider. So if he couldn't protect me, at least he could provide for me and make sure I had enough gas in my car, enough air in my tires, enough money to pay my bills, etc. It wasn't that he didn't care about my concerns, but when faced with something he couldn't fix and something he couldn't do, Dad switched over to trying to do what he COULD do to help me.
Dad was never able to express it in words, and this was always a stumbling block in our relationship, because verbal communication is so much a part of who I am. That's so much a part of the differences between men and women, especially men of Dad's generation (WWII veterans) and women of MY generation. I don't know to what extent he understood ME, but now I realize something I never understood about HIM when his changing the subject to things of a more practical nature made me feel as if what I was trying to tell him was somehow not important.
Now, Dad, I'm beginning to understand and to love you more than ever. And though I'm still frustrated with God for allowing Mom to undergo so much suffering and not yet making things better for her, I'm grateful for this realization and new perspective.
Thank You, God. I'm sorry, Dad.
(c) Copyright 2016 by Arlene B. Muller (Arlene Clare Muller, OSF)