When I was growing up, my father was very busy traveling for his work at the Chase Manhattan Bank. He never attended any of my school plays and missed my high school and college graduations. I understood why he couldn’t come, but I still felt sad. So I was especially pleased when he came to my maiden book talk last Monday at the College of the Atlantic. He is now 98 years old, and everything he does takes more effort now than when he was of parenting age. He arrived with a walker and edged his way into a second row seat, flanked by a cousin of mine, and another good friend. The message I took away from the event was that it’s never too late to show you care.
Yesterday I almost didn’t go to my nephew’s 35th birthday party. It required an hour’s transportation each way to get to the designated beach on an island. I knew that many other family members would be there, so what difference would it make? Would he even notice? I wasn’t too eager to be social, and I thought I might just take a hike instead. But something gnawed at me, inside. I didn’t put it all together until my sister-in-law sent me the picture above. At the last minute I changed my mind and joined my family. I’m so glad I did.
When we arrived, my nephew, who stands six feet tall and is built like a bear, held out his big arms and enveloped me with warmth. “I had heard you might not come and I was disappointed. It really means a lot to me that you are here.”
My heart melted. I remembered back to when I was his age. I was living in San Francisco, on the opposite coast from most of my family, and they never showed up on my birthday. It was a familiar refrain of my father’s absence. The pattern was so ingrained; I could have continued it without much thought.
Changing family patterns takes more than thought. First, it demands consciousness, to recognize what has become a pattern. Second, it requires tuning into the feeling as it was in the old pattern. Finally, it comes time for choice.
When I tuned into my own feelings, I knew I didn’t want to repeat the pattern that had been passed down to me. My nephew matters to me and I wanted him to know it. I don’t live in the same city or state as he, but showing up on his birthday is a way of honoring him.
By changing the pattern, I not only made my nephew and me happy, but my action somehow softened the memories of missing my father. By changing myself, I forgive him for all the times he wasn’t there for me, and focused on the present. In feeling my gratitude and love, it recycles a new pattern of radiant abundance, just like a rainbow.
What patterns would you like to change in your life?