My friend found out yesterday that her father is dying in
Switzerland, and she and another friend happened to be at my house yesterday
morning when she got the call. It felt like divine timing that she “happened”
to be at my house, instead of alone in her apartment, when she received this
call, and then had to argue with her phone company to get international calling
added to her account so that she could call the ER where her dad was admitted.
We were able to sit there with her, just to sit in my kitchen
while she paced my living room, on the phone. Able to make her tea and just
set it there, whether she wanted to drink it or could or not. Able to bear
witness to her tears, and her fear and her love and her fraughtness about
timing and money and taxes and passports and citizenship.
We were able to help her talk through her very next steps,
just the ones she needed to do that day in order to prepare to get on a flight
It was a gift to be able to be present with that.
These past two days, I’ve pulled the “Emperor” card.
Shuffled them thoroughly, cut the deck, and again, this morning, I pulled the
I squick at this card. I don’t like it. In my book, it lists
the traits of this card: Fathering, Structure, Authority, Regulation.
Um, you all know my dad was in the military, yes?
My friend yesterday, between phone calls, told us how much
she loved and admired her father; what a kind man he was, how great a man he
was. It was obvious that she had great esteem for him.
I, do not have the same feelings toward my own. And
strangely, I got an email from him just a few days ago.
We haven’t spoken in months. Not since his brother died
unexpectedly over Christmas.
But, I had been thinking about him, and that it was probably
time for me to send an, “I’m not dead” email, just a check-in, just to touch
base. And then, there was his email.
So, I replied. Reported the generic updates I would tell a
casual acquaintance about my life. And it’ll probably be another several months
until we speak again.
I’m still livid, folks. I’m still angered and betrayed and
astonished at how he behaved when I had cancer, when I was going through chemo.
How he demanded phone calls on his time table, instead of mine, when I was the
one in a hospital bed with chemo dripping into a port in my chest. How he simply told me, when I
asked for this to change, that, “This is how it works.” How, even though he was
newly retired and was working in
the yard of his fiancé, he somehow didn’t
have any other time in the day to call his daughter in the hospital.
And mostly, it’s just sad. It just still saddens me that
this man has no idea how to show up for people. That if it isn’t something that
is structured, regulated, and orderly,
he doesn’t know how to address it, and therefore, he simply tries to quash it.
And, unfortunately, people, I’ve grown up too much to be quashed by him
I’ve done a ton of work around him, asking for compassion
and forgiveness. In fact, just these few weeks, I’ve been using a new
affirmation: I forgive my dad fully and easily.
Strange to realize now, after the new email, the
Emperor card, my friend’s ailing father, that this might be part of that process. This doesn’t seem like coincidental
timing to me.
I know that I have more work to do. I know that I feel very
unwilling to forgive him, even at the same time that I have compassion and
understanding for someone who never, ever had kindness modeled for him. Someone
who didn’t have his own father, and only a step-father who demanded perfection and doled out derision.
I know “how” to have compassion for him. And sometimes, many times, I have it.
But, forgiveness is another thing.
And I know that my unwillingness to forgive, to continue to
drink the poison I intend for him, is only holding me back, and is only
creating blackness in the light I want to move toward. I know that my
unwillingness to forgive yokes me to him as surely as shackles, or, perhaps, as
surely as love.
I also know that it is only in the past few weeks that I’ve
begun seeing this new therapist, and last week, just the mention of my
father, almost in passing, came up. She remarked later that it was clear there
was some work to be done there. Which, obviously, I know, and hope for us to do together.
The last thing, and the only thing that’s keeping me from
burning that Emperor card is the end of the description in my book. It says
this card can also stand in for the archetypal father “in his role as guide,
protector, and provider.”
Surely, mine was not able to be this in a way that was
supportive. But these are the exact qualities that I’ve been seeking and hoping
the “Universe” embodies. That I’ve been praying for, and trying to trust the
Universe to have. That it supports me with guidance, protection, and
Individual, versus Archetype. Reality versus Fantasy.
Compassion versus forgiveness.
I really hate that card.