Among the many responses I’m having to my father’s death is a sneaky desire to be less violent. I’m using the word broadly, but literally, and theologically and ambiguously. Mostly because I don’t know where the springs of the desire are headed.
This is interesting to me because my father was never violent. He was a most mild-mannered man. I have one memory of him raising his voice in anger, one. And I have a good memory for those kinds of things. It was a couple months ago; that day he was slipping into frustration, complaining about a soreness that he had mentioned several times before. He was irritated that I always asked him the same questions like how are you feeling, especially since he felt the same way from one question to the next time I asked it. Otherwise, he was even, cool, and mild. Maybe it’s the simple connection I’m making, that I wish to be like him. It could be.
Perhaps all of life after a significant other’s death is learning how to notice. I could, simply, be noticing. For instance, I’ve noticed in my relationship with the boy—a relationship that is everything from surely loving to overwhelmingly unfair—I’ve had a moving emotion to make him do less. I can’t get away from my imagination which makes persistent the question: what is he thinking about what I’m doing and that I’m making, i.e., forcing, him? There is a kind of violence to the whole thing. Somewhere I’m hoping that I’m doing the right thing, telling him when I need to, coming alongside him when he’s going at it on his own when I need to.
To be clear, the answer to that question isn’t ultimately important. My son is nearly three. And while he is a smart, even brilliant, boy, he doesn’t have that much happening in the way of complex cognitive processes, if all my psychology professors are to be accepted. Much of my interactions are about convincing him to my view, will, or path. I am his father, and he is, well, nearly three. We’ll get to independent and critical thinking soon enough, if it’s not under the covers of these instructions I’m giving.
But I am aware that he has these desires, that they are different from my own, and that the clash of those emotions can make me more spicy, less mild, and that they will create what we call our “relationship.” This is where I practice holding things less tightly, even when it comes to actual parenting, which is, in part, a lot of telling a child what to do.