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An Orphan's View

No Public Art commentary today. Just some humanity. :)

The movie “Dad” (1989) with Jack Lemmon, Olympia Dukakis and Ted Danson was on the television this morning while I drank my coffee and read the newspaper. It’s the story of a man becoming a caregiver for his aging parents – a truth my siblings and I came to know intimately.

But only with our Mother. You see, Dad passed away from lung cancer at age 65 – when I was not yet 32 years old. A month later, my son was born and the ‘reality of duality’ smacked me hard between the eyes. Dad equipped me with much in the ways of wisdom in the year I spent with him during his illness – the most impacting being this pearl: ‘Don’t die with regrets, son. I have them and I didn’t need to die with them.’ He could not, however, prepare my heart enough to avoid a deep and substantive sense of loss when he passed in May of 1991.

When I recall those words – that moment on our front porch in the late summer of 1990 where the sunset matched the metaphor of life for my father – it brings the pain of loss back to ‘real time’ and the eyes sting with the tears of a child without a parent. When Mom and Dad flew to Florida on vacation in 1964 I was just 5 years old. I remember vividly going in to my parents bedroom – laying on that awful white bedcover with the knobby texture – and burying my face in a pillow, crying over and over, “I want my Mommy. I want my Mommy.”

This morning . . . my eyes burned with those tears at age 60 as I watched that movie . . . repeating those words in a similar fashion, “I want to see my Dad. I want to see my Dad.” Silly, I know. But love manifests in us like that – where sentimentality meets memories and feelings of the past are remembered. I became a child again for those moments. It hurt all over again.

I wish he’d been around. My son, my wife, my grandkids . . . they’d have loved him so much. He was full of mischief - but still sentimental. He missed all of the things I am most proud of in my life. I live by a personal belief that even though my father may have had ‘regrets’, I‘ll have as few of those as I can – to honor him and his morals and values he passed along to me and my siblings. He wrongly measured himself by the ‘yardstick’ of other, more financially successful friends. What he failed to comprehend was his own greatness in his simplicity of living.

I believe part of life’s journey is to come to understand our parents. We need to remember that life is hard and not all parents can survive it without some ‘victims’ along the path. Sadly, their offspring can be the most negatively affected . . . and grudges held erode opportunities for forgiveness. We all need to be mindful of that – the ‘glass houses’ analogy – we all have failed at times. To hold parents accountable for our own shortcomings is too easy to fall back on. We need to own our failures and remember the singular truth of ‘duality’ in lif: Success is impossible – personal growth unattainable – without failure and flaws. It is OUR responsibility to correct those past grievances and leave them behind as ‘pained’ and replace them with ‘wisdom gained’. Our parents are only one source of life's 'education'. Without them, we would be feral and need to honor their role - no matter how good or bad they were at raising us - out of respect for our own life....that is ALL of our own making. Unshackle yourself from the bonds of past pains and regrets. By doing so, you actually understand a bit about MY Dad . . . and why those tears cropped up this morning at almost 61 years of age. Enjoy this day. Namaste.

Miss you so much, Pops…..but you’d be quick to remind me: there’s no Internet where you are… Just like you….

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Jay Robert Allen

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