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Lesson learned (08/18/2004)
By Cynthya Porter

Although I usually write through the eyes of a mother in Postpartum, today I write from the other side - through the eyes of a child.

Last June I gave my father a Fathers Day card for the first time in 30 years. I was standing next to what would ultimately become his deathbed when I did it, and as his weak hands fumbled with the adhesive, I wondered why.

Why did this take so long?

Why did I think there would be so much time?

Why did I wait?

The product of divorce, a cross-country move, and early hard feelings between the adults in my life, I spent much of my youth without my father.

But as the years wore on and I became a parent myself, I knew it was time to build a bridge across that gap. Soon.

But first I just had that other important thing to do: that project to finish, that vacation to take, that thing to read... a million reasons why it needed to wait until tomorrow.

So I put it off, and he grew older, and I grew older and my children grew older, and still the dream of the bridge to my past sat.

Finally, not more than a handful of years ago, I reached out and he reached back, and we began the surreal process of getting to know one another as two adults, one parent, one child.

There were times when we weren't very good at it, he was busy and so was I, but there would always be tomorrow...

In hindsight, it seems so unfair that the cancer would come to take him away just when we had begun. There was so much left to do... camping trips I'd missed from my youth, arguments about politics and God, and him tussling on a Saturday morning with his grandchildren. There were so many things I envisioned filling some of the days of my future with my newly rediscovered father, I never imagined we wouldn't get to them.

And there was so much left to know. You can't cram 30 years into phone calls, e-mails and birthday cards. We needed time, the kind of time that gives you a comfortable silence, an insight to nuance, a private joke, the kind of time it takes to know a person.

For 30 years I just assumed we would have it when I got around to it, after I finished whatever that next thing was.

But alas, sometimes fate is cruel, and the lessons we need to learn come the hardest way of all.

My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and there would be no more time.

Today I am at his wake, fresh out of answers to my questions, fresh out of tears, fresh out of time.

Just as we as parents deliver answers to our children, there are lessons delivered in adulthood to us as children as well.

Sadly, I learned this lesson too late to find those extra days with my father, so I deliver the story in the hopes that someone else will find them with a loved one of their own.

The world is not filled with tomorrows, it is filled with todays. Cast aside all the little things that keep us from attending to the business of our hearts and use today to build the bridges. Should you ever sit in the seat I sit in today, I think you'll be glad you did. 


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