My father was 29-1/2 years old when I was born. In a few weeks I’ll turn 59. Today, my father is 88-1/2 years old. Today, I’m learning to speak with my father in a new way.
We’re both learning to speak directly about our feelings.
We’re both learning to say things that for most of our lives were thought – and known on a deeper level – but never said aloud. As we both pass through Saturn’s Return (my second, Dad’s third), we’re both learning to speak from the heart.
My father was born in 1929 – the year the stock market crashed. He was just young enough that he missed serving in World War II. Both his parents were born in Germany, but immigrated as youngsters and considered the United States their home.
My father was a worker. A doer. A builder. A craftsman.
Dad was most comfortable letting his actions speak for themselves.
He worked in a custom metal fabrication shop and was project-oriented.
Dad was a leader. He was the foreman. He was responsible for getting the projects shipped out the door. He lead a team of men who did fabrication and labor. He prided himself in his work, and rejoiced in the fact that each project was unique and one-of-a-kind.
During my high school years, I spent my summers working with my father. After graduation, I decided to work with Dad and learn his trade. College didn’t interest me at that time. For the next four years, I served an apprenticeship in the Coppersmith Local #82.
Dad was my teacher. I was the eager student.
Dad was a fire-hose of information. I was a sponge. We worked well together. We were a team.
During those years, Dad and I were very good at communicating about work. Projects. How to-type stuff.
I was an awkward kid when it came to speaking about life stuff. Feelings. Emotions. Love.
The few conversations we did have about those topics were clipped. Uncomfortable. Could we just get back to talking about building? Let’s talk about the project instead. OK? Dad and I had a comfort speaking about building things. Doing things. Building things together. Neither of us were overly-comfortable speaking about those other things. We had a trust and love that enabled those other things to go unspoken. We did have a deep trust of each other… this allowed us to just simply let those other things go. We reveled in our work, our joy of building things, and our love of shipping projects out the door.
Over the next four decades, Dad and I communicated regularly.
We developed a set of safe topics that we’d discuss with enthusiasm. Things like work, home remodeling projects, travel, the weather, and my siblings. Small cracks would open from time-to-time into our emotional worlds, but we’d often retreat back to our safe zones. It wasn’t like we didn’t want to share deeper conversations, it’s just that we didn’t know how. Maybe we did know how, but we simply choose NOT to go there. Possibly, I simply choose NOT to go there.
For a multitude of reasons, things are changing. I’m no longer willing to stay in the safe zone of conversation with my father. I need to say things that haven’t been said. I need to break out of my comfort zone.
I need to learn how to share feelings with Dad that have been bottled up.
It’s happening. He’s listening. He’s sharing. I’m listening.
Change is possible. We don’t have to stay the same.
We don’t have to repeat patterns just because they are patterns. Habits can change.
Change doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. I’m finding our new conversations refreshing. Exciting. Comforting.
Thanks, Dad, for teaching me and inspiring me still at age 59.