Following on yesterday’s blog, life just isn’t simple. What if you’re a parent, or the only breadwinner, and your heart yells at you to do something that’s more fulfilling, but you’ve got to put food on the table today and tomorrow. And what if you’re the honorable sort and you really want to do that?
I think about my father. He studied accountancy at his father’s suggestion and because he was good at maths, probably. But he never wanted actively to be an accountant. He wanted to design and build bridges. I guess he thought he would get to it one day and he was heavily influenced by his father’s idea that you had to be practical first.
I think designing and building bridges is pretty practical, personally, but my grandfather obviously didn’t. Well, my father listened to him and got his degree. Then he and my mother got married, and she had her breakdown and my oldest sister had her back injury. Somehow they never got better. And my Dad couldn’t get off the treadmill.
He never played the martyr, it wasn’t in his nature. He made the best of a bad job, but over the years he lost his spontaneity as he gave up everything that was meaningful to him. Why did he do that? Well, my mother played a massive role in sucking the life out of him. Always criticizing him, sapping his joy, soaking up all the family resources, accusing him of being the author of her breakdown.
He’d made a vow “in sickness and in health” which he didn’t believe he was allowed to break. Did he want to? I don’t know. He never showed that he did, not even covertly. It never occurred to me as a child that he didn’t want to be where he was, that he didn’t want to be my father, didn’t want to make sure we all had food and clothes and a roof over our heads. I don’t know how he found the strength to stay participating, to do the job that he hated, providing for everybody.
As a small child I knew him to be a bright-spirited, big-hearted, energetic, creative, sociable man. Everybody loved him. By the time he died – just before he was due to retire – he was a ghost of his former self, although he was looking for a way to get his mojo back, to retiring and studying different religions at university. But he was too tired, and somewhere within him I think he made the decision it’s enough now, I need to rest.
Anybody looking at him might say he never listened to his heart, never gave himself the chance. But I’m not so sure of that. Maybe the thing he set his heart on more than designing and building bridges was to keep some degree of stability and normalcy in the family, to be honorable and keep his promises, no matter how hard it was for him.
He taught me the sanctity of promises and the reality of love. But he also said to me dream as big as you can, and live your life in the biggest way that you can. I smile at the memory of him saying if you want to do something and you know you’re going to be told you can’t, do before you ask! You may get into trouble, but at least you’ll have had the satisfaction of doing what you wanted to do.
Life isn’t simple. I’m beginning to see that the dreams I thought I had for him are really the dreams I have for myself. He did follow his heart, and he did it successfully. I just wish he could have had it easier. I wish he was alive. Well his body isn’t here any more, but his spirit lives on in my heart.