My dad and I have formed a new and stronger bond since Mom died last December. We have always loved and respected each other, but these days we spend a lot of time together, talking and sharing ideas and discoveries. Lately, we have spoken a great deal about love.
When Dad was a little boy, men did not as a rule hug their boys, tell them they loved them, or tell them what good boys they were; it was a time of ‘sparing the rod and spoiling the child.’ That is, the prevailing theory about raising boys was to point out their faults or criticize them or be tough with them—all this to make strong, manly men out of them.
Any love, kindness, approval or happiness seemed to have been held in check for fear that boys would grow up too soft. Today is different, and Dad, being Dad, has evolved to a new height of awareness and has gladly embraced change. He understands fully what love means and how love can both change and save lives.
When we are together, we talk of changing our lives in positive ways, of what we do to relax, of how we cope with hate, grief, fear, impatience, and all negative things and people. Most of all, we talk about love, and what that truly means to us.
Mom was the love of Dad’s life, and he was the love of hers. A day never went by without hugs, kisses, many “I love yous,” and endless kindnesses. Dad says how lucky he was to have had this amazing woman in his life for 60 years; he knows that that was the truest, clearest, most defining love in his life. As he says, while he no longer has that, he understands that he can survive knowing that that love will always be part of him.
He called the other night and said, “I was thinking: if I don’t hate anyone, then I must love everyone.” He hastened to say that he doesn’t know everyone in the world, but he bears no hatred or ill will to anyone. He has all the love in his heart for us; his family, for his cat, Bailey, for the people he knows and talks with, and he has a genuine smile for everyone he meets. He may not agree with everything everyone does, but he can honestly say that he has love for everyone in his heart. And he really doesn’t hate anyone.
What I take from this revelation is this: when a man of his age and experience can keep his mind active and involved, and his heart loving and joyous, how can the rest of us not follow this example? Really, what good does hating someone do for us? Oh, there is that few seconds of satisfaction thinking up terrible things that may/should happen to them, but immediately afterwards it is followed by that sick feeling that you have allowed yourself to ruin a perfectly good day. Also, your projected hatred does absolutely nothing to the person to whom it is directed.
Here’s the deal about life and people: things are not always going to go our way. People may let us down, hurt or disappoint us. Personally, I can count on one hand (well, maybe one an a half) the “really bad” things that have happened to me during my life. The rest has been pretty wonderful.
I am taking Dad’s example to heart; I choose love over hate.