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Ships on the Sea

Today on Father’s Day I’m thinking about family relationships. I believe we all have a strong desire, perhaps a need, to know and be known by significant others in our lives. But so many things can get in the way of really knowing someone (and letting them know us). I’m talking about knowing who we really are inside: our dreams, our disappointments, our hopes, our memories, our beliefs, our motivations.

Even the people we live with, including those who gave birth to us and raised us, and have lived with us day and night for years, can remain largely a mystery. The pain that comes from being practical strangers to those we are closest to, is a pain that people can carry even into old age.

A.R. (Alice) Cecil describes this type of relationship with her father and mother when she was a little girl. In her story “Run, Run as Fast As You Can” from the book, Journeys to Mother Love, she writes:

In recent years, I have learned my father saw unbelievable atrocities while overseas and came back a different man than the husband of four months, who left when Pearl Harbor became his call to bear arms. He never spoke of the war, but its effect must have been what was written in his eyes. There was a far-off look that I noticed when he thought no one was looking. Was the look in his eyes a result of what he left behind on the front or what he returned to find?

In my mother’s heart were sorrows he could not have understood. My parents belonged to a generation that did not talk about their feelings. So, my father did what he could and lived by reading seed catalogs in the winter and planting tomatoes in the spring. My part was to simply trail along, not asking any questions or breaking into wherever his thoughts had taken him. As I was my mother’s companion for TV’s “Guiding Light,” I was my father’s silent confidante, ever ready to pour out words of encouragement and comfort whenever he chose to turn and acknowledge me. If he ever had, I would have told him, “I know you work really hard and you don’t have time for fun, but I just want you to know how much I love you.” Instead, all I could do was trail along behind him…

Instinctively, I knew my role in life was to be good. How could I possibly add to my mother’s or father’s pain?

It’s not too late. Today let’s “turn and acknowledge” those around us, listen to them, find out what makes them tick. Let them know “where our thoughts have taken us.” Take “time for fun.” Say “I love you.” And let them see windows into our souls.

~Catherine Lawton