Last updated on June 14th, 2017 at 11:07 pm
Our relationships with our parents seem to be fodder for conversation. Whether our mother and father were wonderfully loving or were absent or challenging, our parental relationships, both consciously and unconsciously, heavily influence our lives.
If you follow my writing, you know that my mother, Lillian, just celebrated her 100th birthday in March and that I’ve written about her many times. Most recently in the tribute piece, “My Mother Taught Me That Living to 100 is All About Attitude”. It inspires others when I share her strength, resilience, and love of life. My father, on the other hand, isn’t a key player in my recent pieces, even though he’s featured prominently in my book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie.
Lessons my Father Taught Me
With Father’s Day approaching, it felt like the perfect time to remember and share my father. It always surprises people when I tell them my mother and father were born the same day, same year. The odds of that possibility happening are staggering. Yet, she’s still here, and my father died 49 years ago when he was only 51-years-old after walking up a flight of stairs and having a heart attack. His presence in my life is as strong today as when he was alive. He lives somewhere deep within me, in my heart and soul.
My father was the kind of person everyone remembered, whether they met him only once or knew him for many years. There is a deep sadness in me that I didn’t have the opportunity to know him as an adult to continue building our relationship. While reflecting, it became apparent that my father had taught me many lessons…some directly from how he was, and some indirectly from how he was not.
The Strength in Gentleness
Perhaps what I loved most about my father Louis was his gentleness. He was the epitome of a gentle soul and often the outside world was too much for him to bear. He was a proud man with great strength and integrity and worked from the time he was a young boy, accompanying his father Noah as they rode through the streets of Hamilton selling ‘rags and bones’ from their horse-drawn carriage.
My father was in the “shmata” business his whole working life, as a traveling salesman in the menswear industry and he was very successful at it. If you measure success by how well you are liked v.s. how much money you make. Even today this many years later, the thing that people remember about my father is how “Everyone Loved Louis!” A beautiful tribute to who he was as a person.
Style and Grace
My father had an innate sense of style and grace. When he walked in a room, you noticed him. In today’s terms, he had swag. He exuded class; something you can’t teach, something you’re born with and walk through the world with.
He was always a dapper dresser and looked impeccable in clothes. I can envision how he looked with his top hat or fedora, a big part of men’s everyday fashion back in the 50’s and 60’s.
I still have incredibly real dreams about him, dreams where he walks through the door and I run to him, hug him and cry, “Daddy, where have you been, I’ve been waiting for you to come back!” He’s always in his tailored suit, wearing a fedora. With his smirky smile, he winks and says, “What do you mean. I’ve always been here.”
The Gift of Unconditional Love
My father was my first and most profound experience of unconditional love. As a young girl, I always believed, “I’m going to marry my father”. Something I imagine many young girls who love their father’s think. Instead, I somehow managed to attract and marry my former husband who was much more like my mother, continuing to search for someone like my father my whole life.
The love I felt for my father isn’t describable in words. It was such a deep and soul-felt love, that when I was young, it often felt overwhelming, not something I fully understood. I just wanted to be in his presence. As an adult, I understand that kind of love is soul love and transcends the physical plane. Perhaps that was part of our soul contract in this lifetime, a wonderful gift of unconditional love I can’t thank him enough for.
My Father the Storyteller
My father had a rich sense of humour and was a born storyteller. His delivery would have an audience in stitches as he would weave and build a story to its finale. He was a master at recounting the stories of comedians of the day in the style of Milton Berle and others. This ability to tell stories, to engage and entertain people, has always fascinated me.
My hope is that I’ve inherited a little bit of the storytelling gene from him. He taught me that laughter is a great gift you can give others, and how important it is to look at the world around us and see the humour in life’s crazy situations.
Feeling Your Feelings
Something my father was not very good at was feeling what he was feeling. This he taught me indirectly. He was somewhat of a dichotomy. He exuded great warmth, yet he was a very closed and insular man. It often felt like he put on a mask for the world around him, appearing like everything was okay, even when it was not. Maybe it was his way of protecting himself, a tool to survive.
I’ve wondered if he shut down his emotions as a young boy. As the story goes, at the age of four, he was in a closed room with his mother Miri when she caught on fire from the wood burning stove. There was speculation as to whether it was on purpose or accidentally. My father was too small to reach the door handle to open it and his cries and bangs on the door went unheard. He was trapped in the room and by the time help came, it was too late. His mother had burned to death. She was only 27.
That image continues to haunt me, leaving many unanswered questions. I can only imagine the permanent emotional scars that left him with and yet it’s something he never talked about or seemed to deal with. As a young girl, I was very shy and people mistook my shyness for aloofness. Like my father, I had difficulty expressing what I was feeling and by suppressing my emotions, it led to illness early in my teens. Over many years and lots of inner work, I’ve learned to feel and transform my emotions. Something my father never seemed to learn to do.
The Lesson of Health
Perhaps the most important thing my father taught me indirectly was the importance of being proactive about our health. My father was like many people in that he didn’t purposely ignore his health, he just didn’t consciously pay attention to his health either. He rarely went to the doctor or dentist, unless he had some “crisis”.
It reminds me of how often people don’t pay attention to their health when it’s good, only taking action when they absolutely have to. As someone who’s had health issues from a young age, I’ve become very proactive not only for myself but as an advocate for people around me.
I know how easy it is to let our patterns and habits rule our behaviors. How so often we don’t make any moves to change things until we seemingly have no other choice but to pay attention. When our body or soul says, “No More” and we have to do something or face the consequences.
Being Proactive With Our Health
Imagine how much richer our lives would be if we made proactive choices for ourselves? Especially knowing that our lifestyle choices account for 70% of the health puzzle and genetics only 30%. We have so many options if we choose to take them. This is why I’m committed to supporting others to take their health seriously and make motivated choices. As a member of Dr. Christiane Northrop’s health and wellness team, it’s amazing to see how even small changes, make dramatic differences. If I can support you and your health, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
How I wish I knew then, what I know now. Maybe I could have helped my father to live a longer and healthier life. Wishful thinking. I’ve accepted this was his destiny in this lifetime. The wonderful thing is that his memory lives on in me and through all the lessons he left for me to share with the world.
What lessons have you learned from your parents?