Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shave, Shower, and Shake Your Head

A friend who recently lost her mother wrote me about seeing her mother in a new light after hearing what others had to say about her mother at the funeral. That second glance phenomenon--discovery moments-- can come to us in many different ways but must always be cherished because they give us knowledge with that extra layer of judgement peeled away.

Judgement is not always a bad thing but it leads us dangerously into the land of "ought to" and "should have" and the invisible expectations of role. Children see their parents first and foremost as their parents and secondarily, if at all, as people. Children, by their nature, see things in black and white. Any failing, real or imagined, in a parent is magnified and can be carried along from the child-mind into the adult one without our noticing it. Even children who have fond associations with their parents struggle to see their parents as their peers do. And so my friend was fortunate to be able to see her mother in that other light.

Inevitably, my mind turned to my own parents. Neither of my parents would be candidates for parents of the year--in any year. Fortunately I found a good place of offloading the childhood disappointments years ago but only slowly have I been able to see them as people--as full and flawed as we all are--and to revisit my childhood without the hurt of a disappointed child.

A couple days ago I was moving slowly, reluctantly into a grey dawn. It may have been the turning point day up here, where the few more minutes of daylight begn to make a noticeable difference in how everyone feels. Every fiber of my body suggested that rolling over and closing my eyes was the best plan. Without thinking about it, I was up and putting one foot in front of the other. Not fast, not fancy, just one step and then the other--into the shower, into clothes for town--not the soft, schlumpy cardigan in which I can disappear--and high heels, well, as high as they get for me. I looked the part of a grown up and sounded clumpety-clumpety as I strode through the corridor.

Only then did I recall a phrase of my father's " shave, shower, and shake your head." This was his get up and get going song. For him, it was often recovering from a hangover and the venture that he was trundling off to may not have been the pinnacle of achievement, but having stripped away the judgment, I realized that I had learned a valuable lesson from him.

If we are lucky and brave enough to grow into wisdom, as my friend has done, we can say goodbye to our parents fondly, cherish their legacy, and continue to appreciate the full spectrum of who they were.


At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey sharon,
I know what you mean, even now nearly 5 years after my fathers death I realise and understand things about him. time and distance, as well as loss helps to shine different lights on our loved ones (even the unliked ones, they are still loved :-)) I understand my grandma so much more now as a parent and having being transplanted to another country like her. and as a result I can even see how she saw my father, as a child! which was very enlightening.
lol ruan


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