Hello Rose People.
The darkroom door is closed, hung with a handmade “Do Not Open” sign decorated by a hastily drawn camera. In there, my dad is making some magic. I sit at the kitchen table, doing my homework and waiting for him to emerge. When I turned 13, he took me into this lair, with the red lightbulbs and hum of the fan, and showed me how to do it: the special paper, the chemical baths, the drying photographs clipped to the overhead line. It wasn’t the only thing he taught me: there was how to check the valves on a scuba tank, how to balance a checkbook, how to pitch a baseball and wield a bat, how to make a decent spaghetti, drive defensively, and make army corners on the bed. By example, he also taught me how to work, how to be consistent. He also yelled for no reason, was pissed at any boyfriend I brought home, and if I botched a paper or an essay, he made me do it over until I got an A. He crushed on my stepmother like a schoolboy, writing love notes and dancing in the kitchen. Protective, angry, brilliant, romantic, musical (and funny when drunk), this is the man who lives in me, half of my DNA, and 1/4 of my children’s base.
I was too late to get to my father’s bedside in time to be with him as he passed. My son was there, though, and he called me and said, “Grandpa’s not going to make it through the night.” A Jesuit friend had told me about a practice of long-distance connection with the dying, where you meet their spirit in consciousness, and send them on their way. I stopped the car, checked into a Best Western on the California coast, and began the practice. For what seemed like a long time, my father and I “talked” (which was more like sharing flashing images, a kind of highlight reel of memories). I told him I loved him, that he’d been a good dad, that the kids and I were fine, and that he could go on with ease, and leave the body that had been causing so much pain. From him, I got the feeling tone of apology and gratitude. At a certain point, I heard a little pop sound and I could no longer connect with him. Early the next morning, my son called and said he had slipped into a coma (at the time I felt him go, incidentally). He left his body that day. Even though that was a long time ago, and he is gone in the body, he lives on in my blood and bones, and in the gaze I bring to the world.
I’ve started to think about identity, and how we really aren’t individuals, but rather processes in the mind of creation, a continuation of our parents line, and all the lineages that came before them, arising and declining. We do our best to live as a continually improving process, so that we ourselves, and the next generation, will be happier, more fulfilled and on-purpose, more harmonious and clear.
Today as I honor my dad, I notice my expectations of a “good father”: they will (like my brother Dirk does for his children), drop everything to protect and care for them. Like my friend Colin, they will painstakingly teach their daughters the simple lessons of living, and they will being patient and supportive as they develop their fledgling identities, and uplift them. I have expectations that good fathers provide for their children materially and emotionally.
I also notice this one: I expect a good father to respect and love and honor the mother, so that the kids know what it means to grow up in a loving, joyful home, where men and women not only get along, but deeply marvel at each other. If it’s been decided that the parents will not be a couple, but only co-parents, the children grow up seeing respect between those that bore them. Obviously, it’s often NOT that way, or we wouldn’t have the world we have, with so much gender violence and people crying out with longing for love. So, I want to appreciate the fathers that are changing the model of how men and women relate to one another, consciously raising their daughters and sons in respect. Every dad that chooses to be part of this great reformation from gender antagonism, violence in general and extraction to a world that praises life in all its forms is a powerful agent for a new future.
Mark Whitwell’s heart sutras speak to this rejoining of male female as part of the evolution of whole earth consciousness. He writes: “Mother implies father: mother cannot be considered without father, nor father without mother. The female-male collaboration is the nurturing force of all life. “Mother with father” is the one nurturing force and source.”
Today, I celebrate my father, William, and his father, Everett, who was a true role model and nature mentor. I honor them by loving the life they gave me.
Happy Father’s Day, if you’re marking the holiday.
How does your father live in you? We welcome your stories in the Facebook group, or on Instagram. Tag us @rosebudwoman, or me @the.rose.woman. To your complete integration, joy, and wholeness.
Christine Marie Mason
Founder, Rosebud Woman
Host, the Rose Woman Podcast