Out parents teach us many lessons in our lives. They are our first teachers, our first relationships, our first authority figures, our first home, our first friends. From learning how to tie our shoes, to learning how to eat a first, how to use the toilette, and how write our names, how to read, how to clean out room…and so many more things that I cannot even begin to list. And sometimes we do not even realize a lesson they taught us until after they are gone.
Such is the case with my father. Even though he has been gone over a year, and there are things I am just realizing that he taught me. These moments are wonderful undiscovered gifts, wrapped up in a bow; a package inconspicuously sitting in a corner. Sometimes it takes some distance to see the picture clearly. I am not only seeing what he taught me, but I am also seeing the situation for what it truly was.
It was hard after Mom died when Dad came to live with me. It is hard taking care of an elderly terminally ill man who is grieving the loss of his wife, while you are grieving the loss of your mother. The weight of it is almost unbearable. But you get through.
And it dawned on that taking care of my father kept me grounded. I would have been tempted to have compromised and given up too much of myself if he had not been there. Life has a way of showing you where your priorities should be.
At the time I did not know that I was dating a man who was a narcissist. Everything had to be centered around him, all of the time. When my father moved in the ex was no longer the center. At first the ex was OK with it, but after a few months, he decided he was done. He never said it out loud, but the shift was audible.
This made the load exceptionally heavy to carry, but it also made me focus on what was truly important. In a relationship, sometimes we can have a tendency to give too much of ourselves. We acquiesce when we really don’t want to, we make concessions to please our partner, or to avoid a fight. I am a nurturer, and I want to please, so I have to be careful about giving too much and depleting. Myself.
The ex and I began to fight all of the time, because he was not the center. Because I was giving too much to my father. Dad had to remain the focus and that enraged the ex. I was placed in the position where was something so important, that the situation could not be compromised.
No matter how much I wanted to please my partner, I knew that my father’s health came first, and I did not, could not, would not give in. Instead of bargaining to avoid a fight, I fought for the best interest of my father. Instead of being manipulated into acquiescing to unhealthy demands, I stood strong where my father was concerned. I found something more important that myself, or even that relationship, and I was not going to settle.
And by having something more important than myself, I learned the difference between healthy arrangements and unhealthy covenants. Because of taking care of Dad, I learned the difference between healthy boundaries and unhealthy requirements.
These lessons have already helped me in my life moving forward. Understanding how healthy negotiations work in a functional relationship is an important lesson. If Dad had not been there, I would have given far too much of myself. Instead of ending up in an unhealthy downward spiral, I held onto my beliefs to keep my father and myself in an emotionally safe place during a difficult situation.
That was my Dad’s lesson to me: I saw and understood how it should and should not happen. I know how two people who love each other should support and compromise in a way that is beneficial to all parties.
So thank you Daddy. I will remember what you taught me, and I will always be thankful for my time with you and taking care of you.