Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unconditional Love

“Can you take the image you've hoped your dad to be, let it go, and allow him to be the dad he knows how to be?”  

These were the poignant words my spiritual director asked of me a month’s time before I’d head home from Philadelphia.  Now being home for close to eight weeks this question has crept back into my consciences. 

As a young girl, and as I grew into and out of my teenage years the relationship my father and I had was less than close.  Make no mistake, in his own right, my father provided me with everything I needed, and in his own way showed me love growing up.  All the same, I often wondered why my dad was so emotionally distant, and showed almost no loving affection towards me.  The affects of this relationship has reamed profound effects on me, and many aspects of my now adult life; most of which I've been able to come to terms with and navigate through.  Even still, some realities of my past I suppose I’ll periodically come back to; case in point, now being home!  My present reality of being home, caring for and spending time with my father as he faces lung cancer, the treatment of chemotherapy, and all the affects that he suffers under chemo has brought me back to those years growing up, and the questions I had about my dad.   

Can I?  Can I set aside and let go of this image I've pined my father to be for me?  The answer – like many – doesn't come easy; for the answer comes with implications; implications for me.  
There is no doubt that I’d love for some interactions with my dad to be different.  Perhaps, being away from home for the past five years – and all the growth and experiences that come with it – would change something.  Or maybe the fact that I’m well into my adulthood; and interactions with my parents might be more mature – that might make my relationship with my dad different.  And in some ways it is.  Yet, it’s not quite what I’d hope for it to be.  Hope springs eternal!    

So I return to that question my director posed to me as I prepared to return home.  Simply put, yes, I can set aside this image I’d hope my dad to be for me.    

Time and time again, I remember that my dad is being the father he knows how to be – not the father I idealize in my imagination.  In a Christian sense, I need to meet my dad where he is; cause that's who he is, and I need to honor that.  If not, I'm to blame.  Thus, as my father undergoes chemotherapy and shows the side effects, I’m reminded to be sympathetic, compassionate and understanding to him; him as a father; and his limitations; and know that there is still love at the center of it.  There’s a whisper that gently reminds me that this love that is there is a love I can’t force to be a certain way; and on my end wouldn't be unconditional love.  Caught up in that whisper, I’m reminded to enjoy the father I do have, and not to waste time pinning over a father I've imagined in my head.  For this time is a gift; and this time is not time to waste pinning over a false reality.     

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