My father died of fronto-temporal dementia in September of 2004. He was an exceptional human being in the way we all are exceptional human beings, however, he knew it. He was a paratrooper in his early twenties and jumped out of a plane to find that his parachute wouldn’t open. Being a master at improvisation, a skill handed down from a legacy of improvisers, he was able to ride down on the top of another’s open parachute, and then another, until he finally landed in free fall, 60 feet onto his head. He was hospitalized and there was talk that he might not live. He did survive the fall and despite his humanity was and is one of the most alive beings I’ve known.
Recently, I was given a box of old letters that was salvaged from the attic of my mother’s house. They were letters I received from friends and family as I attended college in the midwest. Wheaton College, Wheaton Illinois. The very place both my parents met and later went on to marry and start on their lives together. So yesterday, I decided to start reading some of the letters from my dad and really get a better glimpse into who he was, who he is and who he will always be to me.
As I’ve shared some of my most personal reflections here in such a public arena, I’ve often wondered what compels me to do this and before I over ponder, I will share one of these letters my father wrote to me, this particular one from back in October of 1984, my freshman year of college, 1000+ miles from home, my first collegiate season of cross country, in a very fundamentally Christian conservative, yet intellectual environment. We had to adhere to a strict set of moral biblical imperatives (aka “the pledge), however as college kids, we found ways to have fun. Thus the letter refers to “pranks”, acts which were silly, harmless (relatively) and infused what often seemed grim conservative intellectual (oxymoron?), with a certain lightness…as did my dad, in my life, and his letter, the words of which, ring like sunshine on the awareness of my being.
I am becoming free to live and engage in more conscious parenting of these children, those with TSC and those without, in the role of their mother, fellow human being and fellow path walkers in this human predicament in which we’ve all found ourselves, together. Through untangling the roots of the pain bodies (see Eckhart Tolle), that have been wreaking havoc in our lives, in such a way as to clear our inner landscape, we can all be more effective as a family, as humans being, right here, right now, in loving awareness. It is my parents who set me on this path and never have I been more aware of this than I was yesterday, sitting in my car, in the Big Y parking lot, reading my dad’s letter, with tears of pure joy and awareness streaming down my face. I only hope another out there on a similar path, as they all are ultimately the same path, might hear the message….and it goes as follows:
Did anyone ever tell you you were strange? I am telling you the fact. I just went through a box of pictures of which I have enclosed at least one (Do Not Destroy-PLEASE RETURN) of the aforementioned. Of course, all the previously strange things you have done that didn’t get into the pictures are also remembered in this assessment.
Does the present prank-mobile suggest some of your strangeness surfacing? Well, hang in there, it is all right I still love you, probably even more because being with, talking to, writing to, or written to makes you a very interesting person and contagious fun. Thank you for not being in college with me. Young Life leaders were under the pressure of Wheaton and sports and to vent the tension often did the strange type of things.
One of the most exciting things I realized in those years with all the learning and doing I never really understood what I just was comprehending. That Christ came totally opposite of John (the Baptist) who was the austere, strict, according to the prophets and law and would probably fit in at Wheaton, but Christ came enjoying himself and others, eating and drinking and expressing life to its fullest. The man who cared when no one else did, the man who cried when no one else would, the man who always did the unexpected, because of man’s inability to understand or appreciate life.
GOD BLESS you Jill. Being is where it’s at so in all your doing, be sure to BE the person who cares amidst the fun.
Could you send your dates of remaining meets? Next letter! Thanks.
Love and Kisses,