This wonderful passage is from Jeff Arnold’s The Deepest Acceptance which I happened to finish reading today. While it refers to his own father, sitting eating breakfast, and doesn’t equate exactly to my own Dad belting around the countryside in his sports car, it was too poignant, and I think universally relevant, not to share.
“Beyond the roles; beyond the “father” story, the “son” story; beyond the concepts of how a father should behave, what he should and shouldn’t be able to give his son; beyond the conditioned ideas of what a son should expect from his father; beyond our history, we really met. Past and future were stripped away, and all we had together was now. This was the only moment. How precious it was – and how precious he was, how fragile, how mysterious. How fascinating he was too. I saw the wrinkles on his hands, the lines on his face, the little bit of saliva dribbling down his cheek. His hands trembled a little as he lifted the spoon to his mouth. His fine, white hair stood up a little in the back. His breathing was a little raspy.It was almost like being in love. He was a work of art.
Stripped of the story – the story of expectations, the story of what I needed him to be, the story of how he had or hadn’t been the father I needed, wanted, expected, or had been promised – how innocent he was. I had made him guilty by expecting so much from him, by seeking from him something he could never give. I had placed a burden on his shoulders – the burden of being “father,” the burden of being the one to complete “Son.” In my seeking, in my search for home, in my need to hold up an image of myself as “Son,” I had held him up as “father,” with all the expectations that word brought. We had never truly met each other.
But he could never live up to my image of “father,” the image that had been programmed into me. Nobody can live up to an image. In comparison with this “father” image, he would always be imperfect. He would be too this or too that – too emotionally withdrawn, too concerned with money, too closed minded, too unspiritual. Too involved in my life or not involved enough. Too father or not father enough.
But without the image, there was an undeniable perfection here. He wasn’t too this or too that. He was just as he was, in this moment. And nothing else was possible but this moment.
It was bittersweet, this meeting. It was intimate and beautiful, but it was also a kind of loss. A loss of the roles, of “father” and of “son.” A loss of the past and the future. A loss of time itself. And all that was left was a timeless love with no name, both radically impersonal and intimately personal at the same time. Words will never even begin to capture it, this mystery at the heart of the most ordinary of things – the mystery of a man eating cornflakes at the breakfast table. It’s enough to break your heart, over and over again for the rest of your life.”