Watching my father's health be ravaged by Parkinson's Disease is like witnessing my own soul shed its skin like a snake. Following a heart attack, my father was, in one fell stroke, unable to walk or to feed himself. His Parkinson's had advanced due to the medical trauma. The man who was strong for me through my life became weak. The man who was brilliant for me became difficult to comprehend. But, even at the worst, what is left is the sweet and loving essence of who my father is. When I was able to spend time with my father, I was happy to wake up in the morning to go and be with that presence. He didn't have to talk to me about anything really. He didn't have to walk around and entertain me. He didn't need to take care of me or do anything for me. Just sitting with him brought me great joy.
While I was with my father, the Carmelite tradition strengthened me. The Carmelite tradition teaches me about keeping my focus on prayer throughout the day. As I practice this, my thoughts are directed out towards others more than they are pulled in towards myself. I find myself strengthened and fulfilled by practicing more generous love and more charitable thought. This keeps me more in alignment with faith and more careful of doing the right things,
My father once bought toys that looked like little people for my brother and me (see above pic). He called them, “Liliputians,” and he told us the story of the liliputians from Gulliver's Travels. So, my brother and I called the toys our “putians.” We played with the putians a lot until we just lost them, one sad day. My father wrote this short poem about the experience he had of finding toys we lost when I was a child:
Many years have passed.
Under fallen leaves, I found,
Lost toys you cried for.
My father's love permeates this short haiku. This poem was about how much he wanted me to be happy and how it saddened him when I was not, and it was about his regret of finding something too late that would have brought me that happiness.
And that is the way I feel right now. I feel I have found something in myself that my father spent most of his life crying for. He spent his life witnessing my lost soul. My father wanted me to share my gifts and talents with the world, but instead I used them selfishly and flagrantly. I wanted him to be proud of me, even though that never seemed to matter to him. My father knows more about loving unconditionally than anyone I know, but I wanted to show him I could do something that mattered. While I just lost my toys, my father lost his daughter. Now, as I wonder if I'm losing my father, I want to show him that the ways I brought him joy, his “toys” are there. They were just buried under the leaves.
Hopefully, my father will be rehabilitated back to the way he was before the heart attack, when he was mostly lucid in his thought process. I want that for his own sake. Sadly, in my selfishness, I also want him to see the works of my reparation, but he may not. I ask God to forgive me and help me let go of that selfishness. I ask God to help me love my father just as he is for his own sake, just as he has loved me. I am too old to play with putians or to play games with the truth.