This past weekend myself, along with my wife and her parents, flew to Los Angeles to be guests at my father’s 65th surprise birthday party, orchestrated by one of my older brothers and my mother. Before getting into a breakdown of the event please allow me to say this: I had an absolutely great time at the event. It was wonderful to catch up with family and friends that I have not seen in a long time and I wish I could spend more time with. It was a pleasure to watch my in-laws as well interact with people that have been involved in my life from the beginning, and it was exceptionally amazing to witness my father-in-law give a loving and heartfelt toast to my father, a memory that will last with me forever.
The event also presented several opportunities, which I took advantage of, to reflect on the results of my father’s 65 years here on Earth. Although filled with joy at the thought, I am still left with the uneasy feeling that there should have been more. Allow me to explain. Most notably absent from the event included my sister, oldest brother, two sisters and a brother of my father’s, any of his friends from work (all but 1) and school, and none of my father’s 4 grandchildren were present. Who were the attendees of the event? They included a mixed list of my mother’s work colleagues, my mother’s extended family, in-laws and very few of those related to my dad via blood.
Admittedly, my father has several strained relationships with those that have been close to him during his life. For me, there was an unspoken feeling of awkwardness when the evening affair began as the laundry list of people mentioned above were nowhere to be found. Were they invited? Did they decline? Although I am familiar with some of the stories between my father and those strained relationships, there are several unanswered questions I have that may forever go unanswered.
A lot of what I feel too leads me to a very uncomfortable place, my mirror. By comparison in this aspect, I have a lot more in common with my father than I would like. My oldest brother, though invited, did not attend my wedding. I have a strained relationship with the other brother, and to some degree with all of my siblings. I have dropped and lost most contact with friends from just about every level of school and can count on less than one hand those that I have worked with that I consider close. In the last few years my wife and in-laws have been a major part of my life. God, maybe I am just like my father.
But then again, maybe I’m not him. During the course of the event I did make attempts to have conversation with a brother, and enjoyed spending my time visiting and talking with those that mean the most to me in my life. I also don’t run and hide when I run into people that I know to avoid them (yes my father is what you may call an odd duck), and I have slowly come to value and enjoy friendships made with people at our church and look forward to our semi-annual small group gatherings. And, I will be the first to admit not perfect, am and have been making attempts to get to know my siblings, niece and nephews, and in-laws on a personal level. For me, the event was bittersweet because while I loved celebrating the event, the void was felt in my heart of what could have been.
But deep down I know that I cannot make decisions for my father. I cannot mend fractured relationships or change people single handedly or offer unwanted/unsolicited advice. Instead I can only control my actions and my relationships. A great book that I am reading currently, has been incredibly encouraging in showing me that love and patience, and most importantly listening with an open heart, are the key components in developing meaningful relationships.