The Littlest Tree
Today I honor the father I loved so deeply.
My dad was an absentee father, and when he was home he was a tyrant who seemed to prefer interacting with machines to being with his daughter. He was an aeronautical engineer by profession. I never felt I measured up to his standards of perfection, which included being good at math, learning to drive, and being practical – the former I couldn’t do because I was severely dyslexic with directions and numbers; the latter was simply not in my nature. I was a dreamer whose love for beauty and Nature directed my life. In addition, my father’s impatience and fiery temper resulted in daily explosions that also helped to destroy my nervous system through mind-bending fear (my mother finished the job with chilling silence). By the time I became an adolescent I believed I hated my father, and everything he stood for. Sadly, my father and I seemed to be terminally mis-matched.
Secretly, all I ever wanted from him was to be loved and cherished but as I grew older I lied to myself turning my intense longing into hidden rage and depression.
I don’t know just when I owned that I had developed the same explosive temper that he had, but when I did and began to see him as a man who cared deeply for his family even though he was incapable of demonstrating that love on an emotional level until I was well into mid life. I forgave him.
The first time he apologized to me I was stunned. Once he sent me flowers, but I had to promise him not to tell my mother.
Memories surfaced during this imperfect period of reconciliation (which I initiated). I recalled the times he took me to the zoo, the statue of Liberty, the circus, the tiny umbrella he gave me, the way he carried me in his strong arms when I was half asleep, held me when I threw up all over him. These snippets coalesced into a whole as I realized with astonishment that this first generation Italian immigrant really loved his daughter. The last words he said to me just before he died were “here’s my girl” when I entered his hospital room. During our entire lives together I had never heard such a sentence spoken. To this day, just the memory makes me weep.
It is easy in retrospect to acknowledge that my father probably didn’t have a clue about good fathering. His own father was also a tyrant who beat his wife, my grandmother in addition to screaming at her. I do know that my father defended his mother vehemently, and he was the favorite of her sons. Now I applaud and deeply respect my father’s loving behavior towards my grandmother. Caregiving was an ability he developed as a child, and although he worked incessantly, (we would call this a work addiction today) he always provided financially for his family. He adored his wife, my mother – and that was another problem because I couldn’t ever compete with her, so I didn’t even try.
After my father’s death a dove came to live with me, and because Lily b was such a good father to his own young I began to glimpse what good fathering was all about. Today, almost 29 years later Lily b is still with me and continues to acts as a spirit bird guide, validating my thinking in the same way a loving parent would. This peculiar connection between this bird, my father, and myself keeps my dad alive in ways that all other members of my family, with the exception of my little brother are not. Whatever it is sustains me, although I seem to suffer from a crippling sense of lack of direction that is no doubt a result of lack of personal fathering. Not his fault. My father couldn’t give me what he didn’t have himself, and whenever I think about him this thought comforts me. The only really important thing at this juncture is that this man loved his only daughter, perhaps as much as she loved him.
Today the tree frogs are singing from the trees and I am feeling protected by the forest that is thriving all around me. I am not sure when trees took on this male protector role, but trees of all kinds seem to possess this element for me. When I dream the trees are bare, stripped of bark, or chopped down, I know that a frightening time is ahead.
Because it is full moon I went down to the brook (where my dad is buried) to bring some water to the house for a body blessing, for me, for my animals, and for this house made of logs. When I saw the tiny cedar seedling sprouting out of the ground I immediately dug it up knowing the deer would demolish the tiny evergreen. Potting the tree in a small clay pot it now sits on the table where I will be lighting one candle for my body-soul retrieval from the underworld of illness and fear, as well as asking for a body blessing for us all.
This is the second cedar I have uprooted and potted in two years. Up until now all cedars have been female, but this little one might be a male; perhaps he’s a “mother’s son” like my father was…Perhaps I will light a second candle for him.
It is these men, the men who are protectors like my father was who hold the future of Woman, Animals, and the Earth in their hands.
And surely this tiny tree is the male offspring of the towering mother cedar that torches the sky nearby.