Volume 1, Number 3
January 10, 2005
In this issue:
As I began work on this month's DadsNews, I was comfortable in my warm office as the temperature outside was plummeting. My son and I had spent the earlier part of the day wandering around downtown Saratoga Springs, NY, and a cold rain was falling.
One bagel and three shops later, it was snowing.
Weather wise, things were shifting quickly - big changes over a short span of time...
A few days later, in another warm, comfortable house, we started receiving the first reports of the tsunami in Southeast Asia...
My nephew, Michael, is in Sri Lanka. He sent an email out that morning letting the family know he was OK - far from the coast.
Apropos to the new year, this month's feature deals with big changes. Given the huge impact of unfolding events in Asia as well as personal and family losses here at home, I gave some thought to running another story, then decided to leave it be.
Change - birth, death, marriage, career, seasons - it's the stuff life is made of, the unpredictable element that makes our time here an adventure.
Change is also the stuff we seem to fear the most...
And that, dear reader, is all the introduction you need.
I do have two requests for you this month...
First, if you haven't yet, will you make a donation to one of the many organizations working on behalf of the survivors of the tsunami? (Michael has set up a fund for Sri Lankan families through the Tucker Foundation... Details are available below in "More Goodies.")
Second, will you pass DadsNews on to your friends - men and women alike? (While DadsNews is from a father, it's intended for dads, moms, and anyone else who ever was a child...) Let me know what chords these monthly musings are striking with you.
Feel free to drop me a line...
Feature Story: Changing Places
The first time I saw my father cry was at his mother’s funeral.
I don’t recall how old she was when she died. I remember thinking that for as long as I’d known her, Grandma Dotty had been “old.”
In keeping with some odd, fatalistic Eastern European Jewish tradition, Grandma Dotty had been dying - or at least letting us know she was dying - for as long as any of us could remember. She’d devoted many otherwise healthy years to telling us her days were numbered… “If only I should live so long!”
As kids, we looked forward to visits with Grandma Dotty because we knew we’d have chocolate. She always had a supply of Nestle’s Semisweet Dark Chocolate in a ceramic bowl on a claw-footed coffee table that stood in the center of the too-dark living room of her home in Maplewood, New Jersey. Along with our chocolate treats, of course, we would receive reminders of Grandma's impending doom.
When Grandma Dotty came to visit us, she would ask us to play “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof” on the stereo. We’d each receive a couple of dollars, Grandma would play a tune on the piano that sounded like a funeral dirge, give us all a parting kiss on "the head, give me your head..." and after offering requisite notice that her demise would likely come before her next visit, off she would go.
The last of our grandparents, Grandma Dotty finally got quite specific about just how numbered her days were. After a short bout with a number of fast-moving cancers, she died at the Daughters of Miriam nursing home, just off exit 155 on the Garden State Parkway. You can still see the building from the north-bound lanes…
I drove home as soon as I received the news. I arrived to find my father on the phone, contacting everyone who needed to be contacted - handling any last-minute logistics for the funeral. He simply was doing what needed to be done...
Frankly, I don't recall much about the indoor memorial service itself. I do remember being a pall bearer, and getting angry with the funeral home employees. They seemed much more interested in the efficient movement of casket-to-car than anything having to do with bidding my grandmother good-bye.
The funeral was held on a cool, sunny April day, and the drive to the cemetery was pleasant enough. It was the walk away from Grandma's gravesite that I remember so clearly...
My father and I lingered after all but the cemetery workers had wandered away. We stood in silence for a while, then turned to make our way back to the car. Dad walked slowly ahead of me by five or six steps. As he reached the edge of the narrow cemetery road, he paused, then turned around and looked at me. I kept moving forward and, having no idea of what was about to take place, instinctively opened my arms.
My Dad met my gesture, hugged me tightly. Slowly at first, he started sobbing softly - as if testing the water. In the next moment he let it all go, crying as if he'd been holding back for years, just saving it all for this instant. I just stood crying with him, holding him as his warm, rough cheek leaned into the left side of my neck, soaking my shirt collar.
In that treasured, sad moment we switched places - I held the father-ground for my Dad - a heart-broken man who had just said a final good-bye to his mother. He wept deeply and openly now, his face buried in my suit jacket. With my arms tightly wrapped around his back, I felt the smallness of his frame and wondered, "when did that happen?" I kissed him softly and held on until he let go...
Yes, I suppose you could say that we'd changed places before that day, all in pretty shallow ways. Sure, I'd passed him on the ski slopes years ago, I'd climbed mountains, lived on my own and spent time in the wilderness...
It was a wonderfully intimate moment - standing together as father and son - two men completely alive and present and with one another without condition or words. Painful as it may have been, it was deeply real...
No other experience has given me such a visceral understanding of the movement of generations - the natural progression that passes from father to son. I was given a rare, clear moment of insight - seeing my own place in the larger context of life's continuum.
I found out much later that it isn't a blessing that every man experiences. As I began interviewing fathers for a book project, I found some men had stories of a similar energetic changing places with their own fathers. Many had not..
I've grown to hold the events of that cool April day as a peak experience in my life - an epiphany... An extraordinary gift for which I am incredibly grateful...
I truly wish that all men may have such an experience...
When did you first "change places" with your parents? With your children?
What walls are still standing?
Quote of the Month
"Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death."
Erik H. Erikson
As I mentioned above, my nephew, Michael Mina, is currently in Sri Lanka. He is collecting funds through the Tucker Foundation for distribution directly to families who suffered losses in the tsunami. Below is his request, in his words...
"Currently, the best way to help with this tragic situation is to donate money which can be used in the best and most efficient manner possible Therefore, I have decided to attempt to raise five-thousand dollars for the victims between now and the January 21, 2005. As I am now in Sri Lanka, with this money I plan to personally drive down to the south coast to a town named Hikkaduwa where I have been in contact with a family. With the money, I will give it directly to either two or three families (depending on how much I am able to raise through your contributions) who have lost their home, their belongings and their loved ones. The money will go to the families to build them a new home (perhaps a small one, but much better than nothing) as well as to provide them with a good ration of food and water until they can begin to get back on their feet.
"I ask you to please consider donating any amount that is within your ability. Please know that your donation in this cause will in fact truly make a difference! Even as little as a ten dollar donation is enough to feed a family here for three days! Just imagine the significant impact on a desperate family’s life you now have the opportunity to make. So please, find it in your heart to give anything you can. Also, I will keep you updated on how the family is doing from time to time so that you can see the immediate and long term results of your help.
"In terms of collecting the donations, I have been able to work through Dartmouth College and the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth to set up an account to raise funds specifically for this cause. (Please know that 100% of your donation will fall into the hands of the family you are supporting.) Please send any check to Dr. Stuart Lord (Dean of the Tucker Foundation) at:"
Attn: Dean Stuart Lord
6154 S Fairbanks Hall
Hanover, NH 03755-3335
More information on Tsunami relief efforts is available on the front pages of both Google and Apple.
On the workshop and teleclass front, Melanie Keveles and I will be offering another introduction to our incredibly fun creativity teleclass, "Bitten by the Muse." We'd love to have you join us! Drop me a line...
Ready for a coaching test drive? OK, let's set it up! No charge, of course!
Feedback for DadsNews - or a simple "howdy!" - is always welcome. Send me a note!
More cool stuff is available at the Cirrus Leadership website!
Next issue of DadsNews: February 10, 2005. Until then, answer those creative urges and think snow!!!
DadsNews ©2005, Kenneth Mossman, Cirrus Leadership® - Use and distribution permitted and encouraged, providing attribution is... well, attributed!