On Letting Go, Part X: Our Children, Our Parents

On Letting Go, Part X: Our Children, Our Parents

For those who aspire to pursue Authenticity within our lives we are faced with the daunting task of first losing our attachments to the Illusions of Life, as well as finding acceptance of the inevitabilities of what it means to be alive.

We will be born and we will die. From this there is No Escape.

We have no control over when or where we will be born. We have little control over how we will be raised, at least up to a point long past our accumulation of Primal Experiences.

We may or may not even know our parents. For some not knowing might be a blessing compared to what and how we were treated as children, but good or bad, well-intentioned or not it will at least initially shape how we view the world and how we behave within the course of our lives.

Even the best, most well-intentioned parents may pass on a legacy of lies and illusions that reflect their own childhood inheritances. Many will vow to not repeat those mistakes, only to adopt a different set of paucities, prejudices, and failed intentions to which they will subject their own offspring.

It is not a given that we will birth or raise children of our own, but if we do, whether it is by choice or accident, as we stretch like pearls on a string skewered along our accumulated heritage, we have the opportunity to recognize our connection, realizing that for good or ill, it has shaped our past and will influence our future.

My grandfather used to say “We all serve a purpose on this earth, even if it is only to serve as the horrible example.”

We have all read countless tales of how unfortunate, cruel or disadvantaged childhoods seemed to catapult certain individuals into fame, fortune or notoriety, but few of them had joyful outcomes in terms of their own personal realizations of happiness.

Perhaps they were just reacting.

This much is certain: we will be born. As we become adults, we may move away from our parents, or we may feel that we are prisoners of their lives. Some will leave as early as possible, others may stay close while maintaining their independence. Some may never return. Some may go as far away as possible, or somewhere in-between.

Both of my parents as well as my younger brother have died within the last four years.

My two older sons are living their own lives and are reasonably close to home. We see each other on a fairly regular basis. My youngest left for Army boot camp three weeks ago and is in training over five hundred miles away. By November, he will be in Colorado for almost a year of additional training before shipping out for parts as yet unknown.

Less than four days after graduating from college, I moved over nine hundred miles from my parents’ home. For months at a time, they did not even know my whereabouts, or how to contact me.

Our two older sons contact us on a regular basis and we always get together on holidays and special occasions. One lives less than ten miles away with his fiancée, and works full-time while going to school at night.

We visit two or three times a month, and yet I feel like my heart has been ripped from my chest for not seeing each other more often. It’s not his fault or mine. He is just young and full of ambition. We talk about going into business together someday.

When I reflect on the years that I was estranged from my parents, it is only now that I begin to grasp the pain they must have felt and I am consumed with gratitude that my own children have not shunned me as I did my parents.

Then again, I did not routinely beat, verbally or emotionally abuse my children.

My relationship with my parents was difficult and complex. My father was an abusive, overbearing workaholic and a philanderer. He was a brilliant scientist with expertise and degrees in numerous diverse fields.

I idolized him, and spent most of my life trying to gain his approval and recognition.

My mother was a nurse. We were “latchkey” kids with a television for a baby-sitter and homework and chores to keep us busy enough to stay out of trouble…at least for awhile….

We all lived in the shadow of my father, yet because my mother was educated and pursued a career of her own in addition to providing a nurturant environment within our household, I viewed women as strong and smart collaborators, rather than subservient “housewives”.

I am grateful for that.

My father often left for work before I was awakened to go to school, and came home long after I had gone to bed. I often went months without seeing him awake, except sometimes over the weekends.

They were loving and well-intentioned, but incredibly misguided. We were the first generation of nuclear families who had been separated from their extended families by distance, ambition and wanderlust.

They had no role models to emulate, no paradigms to govern their actions or decisions. Child psychology was in its infancy.

Their parents were loving, but stern and violent disciplinarians who espoused such adages as “Spare the rod and spoil the child” who were not adverse to slapping the face of a child who was insubordinate enough to speak out of turn or disrespectfully.

My parents largely followed their lead, despite the fact that they believed themselves to be less draconian or authoritarian than their parents.

And yet, at times when my grandparents were around, they were the first to intercede on our behalf, having been afforded the perspective of time and wisdom that they themselves apparently did not possess during their own parenting years.

As I have grown older, I have come to recognize more and more times that I would swear I could see remarkable physical resemblances to my father within myself that were not so apparent in my youth.

At first, I was alarmed and appalled. I came to recognize that I had come to regard him as an opponent and I resented the resemblances.

For three years, while pursuing a career change, I moved my family and myself back into their home. They were thrilled. I rebuilt two automobiles for them and helped with numerous repairs to their one-hundred and thirty-year-old house. I acquired an amateur radio operator’s license, like my father and grandfather. My youngest son was born there. They had the opportunity to really get to know my wife and children.

The prodigal son had returned.

Familiarity has a distinct tendency to breed contempt however. The longer we were there under their roof, the quicker they became to criticize how we spent our money or the nature of some of our more free-spirited social interactions.

(We never divulged or discussed that we were occasional “swingers”, or recreational drug users, but we lived close to a small-town sort of city, and our associates as well as the clubs we frequented had no small degree of notoriety, which seemed to be a source of disquietude to them.)

They resented the money we spent on the cars we drove.

When I located employment back in Florida I sensed that they felt a mixture of sadness and relief. It was time to go.

Each summer, our children went out to visit them for a month.

I few years before my father died, I brought my family to my parents’ home for a week to spend time together. It was a thoroughly enjoyable time during which we all acknowledged our love and made numerous confessions and apologies to each other.

It was a time of Satsang. We were able to view each other as human beings, rather than projecting expectations of who or what we were supposed to be, or what we expected of each other. It was a time of forgiveness and reconciliation.

After that we spoke every Sunday on the telephone.

Since their deaths, I have become increasingly aware of a feeling of their presence, almost as if one of them had lain a hand upon my shoulder. We saved a number of items that we very special to them and brought them into our home. Sometimes I could swear I see them standing there out of the corner of my eye. It is comforting.

The struggle for autonomy is over.

Although I don’t believe in a God or his angels, I do believe in disembodied spirits.

They meant well and loved us dearly. I grew up faster than they expected and left before they really had the chance to savor how precious my time with them had been.

I started a family relatively late in my life, and greatly desired to be a father and raise children. I was very participatory and involved in my role as a parent. I watched every step of my children’s developmental stages and availed myself of every bit of knowledge I could get to nurture, support and celebrate their lives.

Although it was exhausting during their infancy and early years, by the time they were housebroken I felt like I had been given a chance to catch my breath long enough to appreciate them in ways I never anticipated…these tiny living people…with minds and spirits of their own….

They were a part of me, and yet they were something new and unique in and of themselves. They needed me and depended upon me for everything.

They were like ripples in a still pond…reflecting me and yet already moving away.

I talked to and with them even before they could speak and listened to them as soon as they could.

As fascinated as I was, I was amazed by how gratifying it was when then began to emerge as separate and discrete personalities.

From about eight years of age on, as their unmistakable personalities began to emerge, they seemed less like dependent babies and more like young people. We began to do things together while they presented themselves as interesting and unique beings, rather than mere extensions of my or my wife’s ego.

We were all jointly involved in the activities of mutually supporting ourselves as a family.

Soon they were helping me, sharing the responsibilities and work of our lives.

…And then, they grew up.

Ten thousand tomorrows pass like water under a bridge without our notice.

PS: Shortly after the start of my writing of this post, we were informed of the date of my youngest son’s graduation from boot camp next month.

My personal vehicles are not currently up to the task of transporting us for such a long distance and my beloved twenty-year old 300ZX was hit while parked in front of our house and will require extensive repairs.

The insurance check proved to be a timely windfall.

We contemplated the pros and cons of airplane travel and a rental car, a train, or even a bus to attend the graduation ceremonies, as well as lodging. It would be expensive in any case, but not attending was not an option for us.

My middle son owns a very “nicely appointed” Chevy Tahoe that we have borrowed before. It is the perfect vehicle for road trips such as this.

He needs a new set of tires. He does not have the money right now to replace them. We decided to use the money for the trip to buy them.

Last night, my eldest son suddenly called to say he wanted to go with us to attend the graduation, and offered to cover all our other expenses like fuel, rooms and meals. He had been the “wild card” in our family for quite some time.

He said he saw this as an opportunity to express his gratitude for the love and patience we have given him all these years.

As we circle the wagons in time of need, I am reminded of the image of the Uroboros, the snake that eats its own tail.

None of us needed to ask the other for help. It was feely offered as each of us saw the opportunity. We are connected by not only our needs, but also in our mutual abilities to fill them for each other.

I am filled with gratitude and as I am reminded of how blessed I am of the timely return of Kharma for all of us by the Dharma Action that was set in motion so many years ago.

All things return to the One.

Baraka Bashad.

Namasté

नमस्ते

Chazz Vincent

09/15/2015

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “On Letting Go, Part X: Our Children, Our Parents”

  1. Having recently spent a short but stressful time with the family I have intentionally severely geographically distanced myself from, I am stricken at how unchanging – and unyielding – some parents can be. We are all more relaxed when they come to me. So I think that time and distance only go so far. Place is of equal importance.

    I cannot imagine living under my parents’roof ever again. (I won’t even soend the night there when I visit my home town.) I can, however, imagine one or both of them eventually ending up in my care. My mother… I would do anything for my mother. My dad, on the other hand – and he is in the worst health – would be a nightmare to live with, no matter the circumstances.

    There is a certain *click* that has to happen, among all parties, to successfully open up your hearts to each other again. It is a maturity, a realization, an acceptance. It requires humility and apology, and it is a progression.

    My mom and I, we reached that turning point shortly after I left home.

    My dad… Regression is his middle name.

    I have no purpose in sharing any of this, really. But I admittedly wonder if there is truly a purpose to family. The ties that bind… Well, they also gag. And I breathe much better on my own.

    • It was an arduous task for me, and when my kids left, it was hard, because we were so close. We had no issues with each other.
      I thought the post was going to end on a bittersweet kind of note, but when we ended up coming to each other’s rescue I realized that we had done the right thing all along. It just took patience to see the love come back.
      I feel I am blessed in that regard.
      I once read a bumper sticker that said: “you are not really free until you bury your parents, the kids move out and the dog is dead.”
      I am glad I don’t feel that way, but it is great to not have to worry about waking the kids when you are having great sex.
      Chazz

  2. That’s a beautifully warm reflection Chazz. Your story has the heart of what family means to me. This touched on everything healing in the face of losing proximity to life and to death. It sounds to me like you knew all along how to live well.
    Do you know work from Alberto Villoldo, Phd.? Your words brought him to mind because he talks about how we’re “downloaded” with karmic history to work out. Thank you for sharing this here. xo, Jayne

    • I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it.
      As far as knowing all along…initially, I don’t think I had a clue…maybe a few intuitions, but I made many, many mistakes in my life and have paid dearly for them.
      I think the first thing is to live authentically, according to our nature. That takes a long time, given our inherited kharma and our culture of lies and self-deception. It was a struggle since the moment I took my first breath. Being bi-polar doesn’t help…I just try to survive the lows and live for the highs. As a teenager, I was a surfer…I feel like I still fall back on those skills.
      This post reflected a long process for me. Your post helped prompt me to begin it. The mother of a friend of mine is dying of cancer right now. I didn’t know how the post would end until the PS.
      I don’t know the work of A Villoldo. It sounds somewhat like The Celestine Prophesy in that respect.
      Thank you for the reply
      XO,
      Chazz
      .

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