CREDOS: Paternal love — I

Toni Weingarten

Life is a work in progress. I’m not sure of the source for that quote, but it rings true with me. Some argue that people don’t change, but as our bodies develop, plateau, and then decline towards death, our spirits need not. We do have an all-too-human aversion to change, preferring the comfort of our old ways, even if these ways do us no good.

My father died at age 90 after a few months in hospice. While I’d worshipped him as a little girl, once I became an adult we never had a comfortable relationship. He was brilliant, highly controlling, very critical, and saw other people through his own needs, not as individuals with needs differing from his. I found time spent with him akin to taking oral exams for a doctoral dissertation with the understanding I’d never pass muster -- it was extremely painful. The tension when we were in the same room was thick.

When he entered hospice at age 90, I knew it was my last chance to connect with him. I wanted a positive memory of him to carry in my heart, but feared his final words to me would be harsh and I’d have to live with their shadow.

It was a chance I felt I had to take. Once I took the step toward him, I found that since he was now bedridden, he seemed contained somehow and so I felt him less likely to reach out and hurt me.

Also, knowing his time on earth was limited, I was willing to put my own needs on hold and to let my emotional responses to him go unexpressed.