I always wanted to please my Dad. But he wasn’t much of a little kid person, and I was full of life and questions and energy. I also wanted to please. It wouldn’t have taken much from Dad to shut me down–a short shout and I would quickly learn what behaviors to avoid around him. I did my “be careful what I say and do around Dad so he won’t get upset with me” dance until I was in my mid 20.
Mom and Dad had come up to see Howard and I just after I’d sent out a family letter saying that we were considering joining the Peace Corps or returning to graduate school. Mom went to battle trying to convince us that the Peace Corp would be a stupid thing to do. Dad listened most of the evening, then said the words that sparked our new relationship. Nine years later, after Mom died, Dad’s and my relationship deepened even more.
Thank you Dad. In your eighty years of living and in your three weeks of dying, you gave me profound gifts.
Ed Mathys, age 57, 1979*
On that night in Boise as you shared your dreams and ideas, I glimpsed a pattern. Men in our family have loved strong women, and then tried to tame them again and again.
In Boise, I realized I’m done trying to be in charge.
Sue can march into wars if she’d like. Not me.
Why did I think life was a contest? That I’d shine brighter if you faded and became quiet like me? If I step back in time I see you were a normal three-year-old, growing up. Not a threat, just full of life.
If I could do it again … Actually, I did. Twenty-two years after I squelched you, I supported your desire to do something wild.
It’s never too late. When you heard my heart, the healing began.
Excerpted from Big Topics at Midnight, page 73, 74.