Particularly with family!
I lost my mum about 7 years ago now, and my dad has lived on his own in the large family home since then. He is a very social person, has great relationships with family, church, old school friends, old RAF friends. In fact, I have not known him to be alone for a whole day!
When my mum died, many of us thought that he would turn into himself, yet he did not do that and continued to live life. For a while, he enjoyed his own company; he didn’t have to walk to another person’s rhythm; he could choose what he wanted to do; he could eat when and what he wanted. He also enjoyed all of his life-long friends.
And for a while, that seemed to suit him. However, over the last two years, a long-standing family friend (I’ll call her ‘Anne’) has become a familiar part of his life. This year, dad announced that ‘Anne’ and he were taking their relationship to “the next level”.
Being here in Canada, and my dad back in the UK, I can honestly say that I have buried my head in the sand on this one. I knew about the friendship but chose to ignore it. Being so many miles away made this easier. Yet, when I was informed of the desire in my dad to become engaged, I became aware of intense emotions:
- happy that dad that had found someone to share this part of his life with
- betrayed – more that mum was being replaced, yet I knew that she wasn’t and I knew that ‘Anne’ would never wish to do that. It wasn’t as if Dad had made this decision very soon after mum died.
- grief – it brought back memories of mum’s passing, of the end of an era, and this was similar
- sadness – that I didn’t fulfill my promise to mum to look after my Dad – stupid really because I am here in Canada and am not looking after Dad anyway. He could do that adequately well himself, and now ‘Anne’ would be there too.
So, as I process these feelings over time, I am aware that I have been incredibly selfish. My dad is in his 70s and has a significant number of years ahead of him, if his health continues the way it is now. What right have I to bind him, hold him to my way of thinking, my wish? None!
If I choose to hold onto my selfishness, I am in danger of preventing my father from having love and friendship in the later years of his life. I am also in danger of chaining myself up in resentment, fear and anger. Neither of us would ‘live’.
So today, I choose to release my dad, and I choose to release myself.
I am genuinely looking forward to later this month when my Dad and ‘Anne’ will come and visit me here in Canada. May it be a special time and one of growth for me as well as them.