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Missing You: Common Ground is There if You Look for It
My Dad passed away.
It’s surreal to type that. My Dad was 73 years old. He struggled with pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema heavily for the last three years. Both of his lungs collapsed during that time. He was on oxygen full-time. He moved from a pulsating distribution of oxygen to a continuous one. He moved from a setting of 4-6 to 15. He then had to have three different oxygen machines helping him to breathe during the last six weeks, totaling a setting of 40. He struggled to breathe every minute.
I sit here reflecting on these last couple of weeks. My Dad was strong. He rebuilt engines. He remodeled kitchens. He raised various animals. He trained hundreds of people in secure business practices. He raised a family. And what strikes me is how many of those “He”s are “We”s. You see, my dad had me participate in all those tasks. I was his unwilling helper. We installed new valves in a Toyota using the kitchen table as a workbench (frustrating my mom in the process, ha). We took apart his parents’ kitchen, down to the studs, and rebuilt the entire South Philadelphia center of their home (we did lots of remodeling!). We took care of dogs, canaries, snakes, doves, turtles, fish, salamanders, finches, mice, quails, frogs, newts and many other species that I can’t remember.
Truth be told, I didn’t like any of it. And that was a cause of deep misalignment in our relationship. I wasn’t the son he had hoped for, and he was not the kind of dad that I thought I should have. We were not on the same page regarding most things. I felt a disappointment in him, and he dealt with frustration at not being able to connect well with me.
And then the grandkids arrived. When Kathy and I built a family with our three amazing children, Dad and I had something to connect on. My Dad was sold out for his grandchildren. He loved them and worked hard to let them know that. Truthfully, he was a much different person with those six kids (three of mine and three of my sister’s). My Mom and Dad loved being grandparents together.
My dad was a music lover. He was a singer for The Aquanets, a doo-wop group at the Jersey Shore. And while I cannot sing, despite the boldness with which I take the karaoke stage, I enjoyed my dad’s talent (like this moving gem). I didn’t have to be good at the same thing to find common ground. We could enjoy music even though our skill sets were different. He was a performer; I was an appreciator.
My reflection leads me down a couple of paths. I was able to share some thoughts on #ButFirstCoffee. In addition, I know that there is common ground that each of us can find. It may take time, even years, and it may arise unexpectedly, but it is possible. That person who seems to be so different from you is a person. Connections are waiting to be found. I didn’t know what would ultimately build a bridge between me and my dad, but once we had it, we leaned into it. Each of us can do the same with those tougher connections.
This time of year shoves people together who may not normally have a reason to be together. Seek to find some common ground.
I am grieving my dad’s passing. Both of my grandfathers have passed and now my dad. There are less men in front of me. However, I have some great men coming up, like my son, Frank. I appreciate the connection we have in numerous areas of interest, of commitment, and of love. We found our connection sooner than my dad and I did. For that, I am exceedingly grateful. Funny how grief highlights gratitude. I think I will lean into that.