Before and After: A Matter of Perspective

Here is my dad David was able to get a picture tod

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been 2 months since my dad’s passing, wow, to the day. My timing isn’t planned, just lucky coincidence.

This picture accurately represents something unexpected for me.

My dad is smiling here. He was happy because my husband was able to visit him.

When my dad was alive, it wasn’t his smile I remembered, or his comforting shoulder hug when he walked up next to me after not having seen me for a long time.  It wasn’t the twinkle of kindness and love in his eyes when he looked at me during my short visits so far and few between the passing time. It wasn’t his jokes, or the happy tone behind all he said.

The thought of my dad when he was still alive wasn’t anything warm and fuzzy.  It was sadness that he was in hospital or nursing home care. It was frustration that so much of a normal relationship with him had been stolen from me because of mental illness (also PTSD misdiagnosed and neglected) and his “guinea-pig” status with the VA. It was anger that he was so unpredictable, I never knew what to expect when I was able to visit him. My mom claims he had no “filter”, what I know as practicing self-control and taming the tongue. The last time I saw him when he wasn’t being kept alive by machines breathing for him, he told my husband some really awful things, stuff he said he was confessing to concerning me. There are so many holes in my childhood memory, some of what he said I  can’t even verify.

He was moved around so often by the VA that I rarely knew where he was, and he did not always have access to a phone for me to call him. My mom stopped remembering to tell me he had been moved, it became part of her normal life. And, the truth is, I often cringed at the thought of talking with him on the phone. What would I say? What would his frame of mind be?

The most surprising aspect of his passing is that all those fears and negative emotions have just sort of evaporated away. I am finally free to feel the good feelings when I think of him now. My guard can be let down, I don’t have to defend myself, or prepare for the worst. I don’t have to remind myself of the bad things.

I never once wished him dead- well, after I forgave him, that is. So, there is no guilt to deal with now. Life circumstances kept my family and I far away from him, so again, no guilt about any of that. It was out of my control.

I can let the little girl I once was think about my dad and remember what I loved most about him.  No more guard, no more self-defense, no more cringing as I think of him.

My heart is free to remember safely now.

What My Mom Helped Me Learn

My mom has helped me learn some things that I now have the opportunity to purposefully make sure my daughter gets from me.

Deborah turning 4 Incidentally, when my mom came o1) Always have her back. Even if I don’t agree with her or she doesn’t handle things the way I would, never make her feel as though she has to deal with things alone.

2) No amount of money or possessions can replace a sense of being cherished or belonging.

3)  I need to be approachable.

4) Listen, even when it drives me crazy to hear about her friends I’ve never met. It’s important to her to be able to share it with me. Also, that keeps me informed and interested. I know who is dating who, who just moved into the neighborhood, who I should be aware of,  and what their ages are.

5) I need to be involved without being controlling.

6) Make time just for her, just because I want to spend time with her. I enjoy her company.

7) Help her find a sense of purpose by telling her what her strengths are, and what I admire about her.

8) Praise her and compliment her; critique things she does without harsh or mean criticism of her.

9) Teach her skills that will help her fit into society in a healthy way.

10) Help her value herself so she will make decisions that will be healthy and beneficial.

11) Don’t say negative things about her behind her back. When I share information out of frustration or as a prayer request, she knows about it and what I have said.

12) Don’t side with someone who calls her a liar. She isn’t always completely truthful with me, but I have never, ever known her to lie to someone, outright. And, even if I thought she did lie, we would deal with that in private and she would apologize to the person face-to-face. I will not take sides against my daughter.

13) Teach her the “why” behind each piece of instruction, guidance or advice.

14) Make sure she knows I separate her from her actions, decisions and mistakes. She is not what she does.

15) Let her wear my shoes and clothes sometimes. There is just something uniquely bonding about this with my daughter.

16) Don’t attack her for, or say harsh, mean things about, what I view as faults. My view is only one perspective, but she gets her cues at self-confidence from me.

17) Make sure she knows beyond any shadow of doubt, every single day, that I love her, cherish her, and my life is better because she’s in it.

18) I am careful to not expose her to things she’s not old enough to be able to process with an informative maturity. Raising children is like growing plants in some ways: I wouldn’t throw a rose-bush out into a blizzard just because I was tired of it being in the house and it’s too expensive to buy it food and soil. The same with my daughter: there will be no cut-off time for her, we won’t force her out of the house by a certain age. My hope is that we will help her become confident and prepared when the time comes for her to begin a new phase of life apart from us. I’m in no rush for that day, but I also won’t hold her back from embracing it.

19) Give her a healthy view of marriage. I think this is one of the best gifts my husband and I can give to our children, especially our daughter. As she sees how her dad treats me, and how I treat him, she will be able to discern the right relationship for herself. It’s so important for her to understand God’s perspective in marriage, because the world’s perspective brings no peace, no comfort, no health, and no longevity.

20) Make sure she has a firm foundation in Christ, while I encourage her in her own relationship with God, but don’t criticize when she doesn’t do things the same as me, or she isn’t passionate about the same things with God and church that I am. She is uniquely formed by God, and I trust Him to lead her in the direction that He has planned for her.

I hope I can pass on things that she will pass on to her own daughter someday, and so on, and so on…

My desire above everything is to bless my daughter. When a mother curses her daughter with negatives and harsh criticism, it affects every relationship and interaction she has, negatively. My hope is in blessing her it will do the exact opposite. I can already see some positive fruit from things people say to me about her, and how she is treated by her peers.