It took me so long to discern the good heartedness at my father’s core, and to comprehend how many times his heart was broken.
It’s only since his death that a deeper level of appreciation has emerged.
A gift to Dad for his 70th birthday
For so many years that knowledge was willfully hidden from me, with my tacit cooperation born of self-preservation. Only in my late twenties with the help of a skilled therapist, pulling at the layers of dried, blood-soaked gauze wound around my heart, did I begin to unravel all the dirty tricks that had been played on both of us.
I felt such grief and remorse. I traveled to visit him— something I’d avoided for many, many years— to apologize and ask his forgiveness. His response: “I never stopped loving you.”
Even after that, and for years, when his gnarled hand would reach for mine I’d pull away. Now I see what a little thing it would have been to tolerate that after so much practice withholding. All those small wounds that accrue – when he died his circulation was 85% occluded. A heart can only take so much.
But that last night, with us around his bed whistling Gershwin while he conducted us, barely able to lift his arms, still lucid but unable to speak, there was so much love in his eyes and in ours, pain and form dissolving as holiness took its place. I knew he was dying in peace, and I was unutterably grateful.