each year as the leaves turn orange and brown around the edges and the nip of cold sets in in the air, I start to have dreams of my father.
after several nights in a row of these home-comings, i remember that the anniversary of his death, the day of the dead, is coming close.
it’s been five years, and so today i celebrate? no. grieve? no. bow to? yes, this long stretch of time since i got to hold his strong hand, behold his beautiful mind, feel his beautiful heart.
to some of us, hearing “all parents love their children (no exceptions)” sounds just about right.
to others, it’s unbelievable, a monstrous statement, irreconcilable against an childhood so dark there are few words.
but it’s true.
even though they were cold or mean or violent or insane or dangerous, the most human part of them always did and always will love you.
even though their actions and words may be far from congruent with love, still they always did and always will love you.
retrieving that love is one of the most courageous things you can do in your lifetime.
from Mary Oliver in her book, Dream Work:
My father, for example,
who was young once
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door,
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for this waxy face,
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness.
And so, for a long time,
I did not answer,
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping.
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall.
The door fell open
and I knew I was saved
and could bear him,
pathetic and hollow,
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him,
and the meanness gone.
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house,
and lit the lamp,
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love,
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.
i’m grateful my father and i, both parents and i, did love in time. there was nothing as dramatic as this poem in my past, but for some i know this hits home.
i think we all disbelieve, even if infinitesimally, that our parents love us.
and some of us get the gift of believing again, fully.
of opening back up to love, even if we stay closed to the dark and dangerous parts.
and those bits of missing vitality flow again through our veins.
here’s my prayer for your own opening, whether a small unfurling of your palm or a large chasm yawning in your heart.
viva la dia de los muertos,