Healing, Middle Age, Trauma & PTSD

Happy Birthday, Dad! … Let’s Chat, OK?

October 7, 2022

Happy Birthday, Dad! You would be 94 years old. That’s so astounding to me!

You have never gone, fully. I understand how that works now. I carry you in my heart and in my drive and in my personality. And in my biology, my aging – I see myself in you more and more. In Mom, too.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot the last couple of weeks, as I go through an initial batch of your videos and slides that I’ve finally started to get digitized. It’s interesting to see through your eyes what you decided to memorialize because back then, with film, photography was more deliberate and mindful, whereas today we snap away to our hearts’ content without limitation. These pieces of history feel so long ago, but ever present. With me now.

I’ve also been processing our relationship a lot lately in therapy and EMDR, working to heal the parts of your parenting and my childhood that hurt me and that I’ve carried with me too long. At this point in my life, I want to explode with love and not carry these burdens any longer because life lately has felt like it is moving too fast. That time, ever more so, is now. There’s no doing things later, putting them off.

I want to FEEL now. I want to stop the avoidance and numbing and feel the LOVE that was – and is – inside you. Feel the love at your core.

So today I am imagining that the essence of you – this core being, your energy, your goodness – is spinning around me and throughout the universe, exploring, seeing new things, connecting and merging with other energies, happy, fulfilled, exuding love and hopefulness, protecting me, Mom and my siblings, and loving us unconditionally.

I know, Dad, you are no longer lonely in your physical and traumatic pain, and no longer affected by the hurts you experienced, the atrocities you witnessed, and the injustices you felt during your lifetime here. You are simply you now – the core you. The energy you were when you came into this world in 1928, full of potential and uninjured by the ravages of life.

I would love to meet this you. Come visit me, and we will chat today!

We will watch with new eyes the videos of our time – just you and me – seeing the Great Migration in Kenya. And you can tell me what you were thinking when you took that cute photo of me when I was five years old, petting the baby deer with a shy smile, because I don’t remember that happening. And you can hug and tell me how proud you were of me when I brought you that almost-perfect report card in high school. And I can hear you wonder at how beautiful and grownup I was when you walked me down those stairs at my wedding.

I feel your love today, and I feel who you were, really. Underneath it all. I think I know what you wanted to say, but couldn’t because you didn’t know how to or because you didn’t “trust enough” to say those things. Or you didn’t think you should because we perhaps would become too full of ourselves. So sometimes we got an insult instead. I think I understand your skewed reactions and frustrations.

I understand trauma now, Dad. Can we talk about that? I don’t understand your trauma origin stories because I wasn’t there, but I understand better what those traumas probably did to you. How you felt the ongoing reactions in your body, how those events affected your brain. How you were different than Before. How you were sad and frustrated and scared and confused and lacked trust. (But you couldn’t say because men and fathers didn’t do that then.) I understand better your anxieties, your bursts of anger, your hypervigilance about noise. How when I let the screen door slam, it probably sounded like an explosion.

Also, I try to remember this morning who maybe showed you empathy in your younger life, and I’m not sure who that would have been. Maybe your big sister; she once told me Grandma wasn’t the warm-nurturing type, so she took care of you. I saw the love for you in her sweet eyes, even through a hazy filter of Alzheimer’s. … Your dad died early, and you all probably had to toughen up fast. And you certainly had trauma in his death; how could you not have? … And later you went to war, Korea, and so many people you knew died; it was scary, and you survived. But you had to be so tough there, too.

If life was about being tough, and you never received much tolerance, empathy and nurturing, how could you have known how to show it to others? You wanted to toughen us up, which “worked” for you. It’s how you got through life.

… Thank you, Dad, for all you did for me, and for all the messages and positive lessons that were so important for you to pass on to us. Thank you to you and Mom for sacrificing so I could go to college. Thank you for taking all the videos and slides of us for family history and posterity; we are now enjoying them, and we have this legacy we can pass down. (I am trying to take more videos of me, or John and me, of family, so others can see what we were like moving and talking with expressions – later.) And thank you for wanting to go on adventures with me, with us, with Mom.

For all the other stuff, I send my forgiveness. I don’t excuse those things. They were wrong. But I am learning to let go of the stuff you said and did that hurt me and that I have carried too long. I don’t want it any more. I send you my understanding and my acknowledgement that you did the best you could do with the examples in life you received.

I am meeting you again in this new plane, in this new experience of timelessness, of life, of death, of possibility, of core love. Where all things can be different.

I SEE you. Let’s chat more.

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Wishing you love, peace and sparks of joy wherever you are on your healing journey. It is my wish with all that I do and all that I write about for you to know that you are not alone.