Sometimes, particularly while on long flights or during periods of prolonged separation from my wife and kids, I experience certain quick moments of intense emotion. Like flashes, during these minutes it seems like I’m experiencing all the guilt and shame of all the wrong I’ve ever done all at once. From childhood to yesterday, I seem to feel bad about it all. An un-willed gust of self-flagellation in penitence for everything “I’m sorry” can’t cover.
This fleeting sadness and guilt is always accompanied by the strong desire to hide away and take shelter. In those moments when the total weight of my life’s sin feels stacked upon my head like a column I want nothing more than to be with my family, away from everything and everybody. To take my wife and my kids and go and shelter in the amazing sense of safety and peace I feel when we’re together as a unit. When faced with these moments, nothing could be more soothing or restorative.
I occasionally think this is how I’ve learned to cope with feelings I otherwise have trained myself to overlook. Like pulling Band Aid off all at once or something.
My father is dying.
He has a type of blood cancer and the doctors don’t think he’ll live much longer. We’ve known for a while but I don’t write anymore so I’ve not written about it. The disease is playing out pretty much as expected.
Last year I helped move my parents from Oregon to our old house, while we bought a new one only a few miles away. We found out about the cancer just after they’d settled-in. I honestly think this was God’s plan. Early on I used to think about how nice it would be for us to have my folks close, but in the end I think it was we who are meant to be there for them.
Mostly dad is just very tired. Happily, we’re able to spend plenty of time together. We barbecued in a park just a few weeks ago. Since our time together is fairly normal, it’s easy to think that things aren’t really all that different. I don’t think I’m deluded, but it is easy. I’ve committed myself to sharing as much time together as we can and we’re doing that, but often I think I’m still unprepared.
Back to those moments of distilled repent I opened with, perhaps my pointed way of dealing with heaps of unrealized consequence. I have this sense that I’m beginning to process the eventual loss of my father in the same way. In certain moments lately I find myself in pointed crushes of loss and sadness. Fleeting, but raw and strong. I feel suddenly awash in some fondness of memory, some wish for more time that’s not even yet expired.
And I cry. Which I don’t do. I did today, on the plane, watching Life of Pi when Richard Parker walked unceremoniously into the jungle. I did a few weeks ago sitting at home on the couch. Then Sharaun was next to me and she did her best to comfort me. I thought I could see just a bit of surprise on her face, her realization, I think, that however OK I act about things this will hurt. She did, though, comfort me.
I know she’ll be there. So will Keaton in her perfect way and Cohen in his perfect own. My brother and his wife, my mom, all of us. The family balm. Come whatever, I gain strength from them and take great comfort in knowing they are a life raft in rough seas.
Until later then.