I sometimes think that I’ve won my freedom at the cost of my parents’ broken hearts.

I wonder if that’s true for all children who do not follow in their parents’ footsteps. Who choose another path.

Pure love is rare. Most of us experience it only in its alloyed form.

I once wrote a blog post about the debilitating mix of love and worry that I have often experienced from my mother.

Worry as defined by Wikipedia: in terriers the characteristic method of killing small prey animals by shaking them to death.

Worry as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary:

  • to choke or strangle
  • to harass by tearing, biting, or snapping especially at the throat
  • to shake or pull at with the teeth
  • to touch or disturb something repeatedly
  • to change the position of or adjust by repeated pushing or hauling
  • to assail with rough or aggressive attack or treatment : torment
  • to subject to persistent or nagging attention or effort
  • to afflict with mental distress or agitation : make anxious.

Lately I have felt like a small prey animal being worried by a terrier. “I worry about you,” she says, and I sigh. “Please don’t,” I say, “for both our sakes.”

We sometimes think that worry is a sign of love. But the dictionary says it’s torture. And I can tell you that it hurts.

These days when I’m with my father I feel an overwhelming mix of love and grief. Like a fast growing vine it eats up the ground between us and climbs the trellis that is me until I am covered as thickly as Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Or Spider Man in the second movie when revenge takes over his body and he becomes Venom.

I have no defence.

The grief and the love are so alloyed they are impossible to separate, to feel one without the other. To open my heart to my father’s love, is to take in his grief, anger, frustration, disappointment, shame. That things have not turned out the way he expected. The way he was promised.

“God knows I have been true.” he says. “I have been faithful. And this is what it’s come to.”

I know that this is old age talking. His grief is deep and wide, encompassing all the ways his world has changed so he doesn’t recognize it. But it’s also directed at me and my brothers, all three divorced, all three who’ve left the church of our childhood, all three whose lifestyle choices they can’t understand.

Vulnerability is a buzz word lately. Thank you Brene Brown. She says that it’s the pre-requisite for intimacy and connection. So I do my best to keep my heart open. Even when it hurts.

Three morals in this story:

1. Pure love is rare. Most of us experience it only as an alloy.
2. We sometimes think that worry is a form of love but the dictionary says it’s torture.
3. Keeping your heart open makes you vulnerability and there’s no getting around that.

Yours with creativity and imagination,

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