Accepting Our Parents

My dear father died ten days ago quite suddenly of a heart attack. He was in the little apartment he shared with my mother above our garage. As Barry and I were out of town, Rami and Mira, our daughters, rushed right over. Mira, age seventeen, administered CPR while Rami directed the 911 call and encouraged my mother to say good-bye to him. He died smiling peacefully in the arms of his beautiful granddaughters, with the loving words of his wife.

Nothing could have prepared me for the grief I felt upon returning home several hours later from a five week work and vacation trip. The grief is still very deep ten days later and yet I am comforted by the relationship I had with my dad.

As all parents, my father was not a perfect parent. I am not a perfect parent. No one is. In my twenties I wanted to change my father, to make him the person I thought I wanted as a father. At some point I stopped trying to change him, and just accepted him as he was. The more I grew to accept him, the more I realized just how perfect a dad he was for me.

I had lived three thousand miles apart from my parents since I was eighteen. Seven years ago, my parents moved right next door. My dad was eighty-one years old then and still quite energetic. Several years later he lost his hearing altogether. Because my father was deaf and communication was minimal, I vowed to show him my love every time I saw him. Because he couldn’t hear, he would unknowingly interrupt some very personal conversations. I might be deeply in conversation with one of my daughters and we’d hear his loud steps enter our home. We’d stop whatever we were doing and give him our total love. We’d hug him and fuss over him and he’d leave around ten minutes later, quite satisfied. It was not unusual for him to burst into a counseling session in the living room or a meeting in the office. On those occasions we’d quickly escort him out, but always with love. Our counseling clients grew to expect these friendly interruptions.

And now in my grief it is those moments of giving him my total love and acceptance that bring me the most peace. I can truly say that, as much as my heart is capable of loving, that is how much I loved my father. Our children followed that example and treated their grandpa with the greatest respect and love. And my father in turn delighted in every gesture of love offered him and returned it a thousand fold.

For those of you whose parents are still alive, reach out to them with your love. Realize that there is no such thing as a perfect parent and try to accept your parent the way they are. The reaching out, the gestures of love, will bring you so much comfort when they no longer walk this earth. And those of you whose parents have passed on, reach out to them in their new home. The bond between parent and child is everlasting. As you reach out to them with your love, you will feel it returned over and over again.

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