Monday, October 15, 2007

Making Opportunities

A clatter of breaking ice caused me to look across the street. Wow! He was good.

It was about 1958 or 59. I was 12 or 13 and had my first regular job delivering the morning paper seven days each week. My father was helping me deliver the Sunday morning paper on a late winter morning with gray skies, cold temperatures and lots of brittle ice. He took one side of a street on a fairly steep hill as I took the other side. After he put a paper behind a storm door and turned to walk down the four steps leading to the walk, the entire sheet of ice on the porch began to move. I heard the beginning of the ice avalanche and turned in time to see him ride the sheet down the four steps. Arms outstretched, one foot in front, flawless balance – he rode the disintegrating sheet to the ground and walked away casually! Any surfer on any beach would have been impressed. I certainly was.

For some unknown reason, this memory came from nowhere today as I walked the mile-plus from my office to Julie’s. It got me wondering if I told him long before his death how much I respected him – not for his physical ability but for being the man he was. I know I tried but I can’t remember the details of that conversation. Most likely I tried more than once to express it. Still, I have some regrets about the quantity and quality of our contact during his last years. Given the opportunity, there’s more I would say.

I always respected my father but can remember some less-than-loving words on my part in my late teens. It was just the normal experiences that, I assume, most fathers and sons experience. Looking back now, I regret some of the things I said and some of my attitudes. I hope I expressed my regret some years after the fact.

My son phoned last night for the first time in a few weeks. Normally he phones every Friday morning or on the weekend. Occasionally he will miss a week. If he misses more than two then I know he’s going through a rough time and it concerns me. I try to give him time and space. He’s an alcoholic who hit bottom several years ago. It’s been amazing – and painful -- to watch his struggles and successes. Seven to ten years ago I was prepared for a call announcing his death. A fortunate minor accident marked the turning point. Now, he’s not the person he was. He’s come so far and has the drinking curbed.

I pushed the line with my father but my son clearly crossed it about 12 years ago during a really bad time. I listened to his angry words and made the best response I could at the time. I had forgotten my brief response until he reminded me this past summer. He brought up the experience and my words which were “Remember this. I want you to remember what you said today”. That was all I said. He told me those words “haunted” him for years and he thought about the exchange often.

I think it’s important to make amends for my mistakes. I think it’s important to express my gratitude and respect for people important to me. I think it’s important to express my love and forgiveness for those that have wronged me.

I wonder if I’ve done a decent job of letting him know how I feel about him. I don’t want him wondering or living with regrets – not now or after my death.

Before we ended the call last night he asked if Julie and I had plans for Christmas. We see one another about once a year for two or three days. He said he’d like to “cross paths” with me. I’d like that. I hope we can make it happen.


Blogger Steve said...

Then make it happen my friend.
Make it happen.
One small step for..........

10/16/2007 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I hope that Christmas works out for you Paul. I'd miss my kids if I couldn't see them much. In fact, I do miss the far-away one sometimes even though we do get together at times.

10/16/2007 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger Mysti said...

My mother spoke very ill to her father the day before he died. It was a tragic death at the age of 51 and she was only 16. She has never forgiven herself to this day and it saddens me to know she will carry it with her to the grave.

No matter what happens in our lives, I constantly remind myself and my children that 'thoughts are things and words have power'. Just love each other as best you matter what. Hope Christmas happens and is a lovely and memorable visit.

10/16/2007 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

A really good post, Paul. Fathers!
And sons! I used to preach to people that it's most important for anyone to forgive his parents. I also realize that none but the Heavenly Father have been adequate parents. We all fall short.

Your post brings back unpleasant recollections re my father: I never gave him the respect due him. I did come to understand, when I was about 30 that he was really just a poor man like me trying to make his way.

My father, I felt, made many mistakes with me. True or not, I found in the next generation that I made the very same mistakes with my three boys. In spite of that they (and I, also) have done pretty well, and for this hopefully we're all thankful.

10/16/2007 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

I haven't seen or spoken to one of my daughters in over 20 years. It would be nice to cross paths.

10/17/2007 01:31:00 PM  

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