Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day 2020 / One thing leading to another

Although this photo taken in the late 1990s doesn't show it, my relationship with my father was difficult.  I was named after his beloved mother.  I'm grateful that the last time I visited him in 2003 was peaceful.  Early this morning, sobered by reading about yet another shooting, this time in Minneapolis, I went to Google maps to see where the shooting occurred.  It was not far from where George Floyd was murdered and within walking distance of the house where my father was born in 1914, a few months before World War I began, and it was within walking distance of the cemetery where my father's parents, many of my aunts and uncles, my oldest male cousin, and my mother and father are buried.

When I looked at the cemetery website, I was surprised to find this:

In the last few weeks a friend sent me a copy of Day Schildkret's book about creating ephemeral mandalas from natural materials gathered on early morning walks.  I had not heard of him before.  I've used some of Day Shildkret's ideas in connection with the current mandala I am working on.  When I was walking with a friend earlier this week in a wooded park within our city, we saw several morning altars.  My friend had not heard of morning altars and took photos of them to send to her grandchildren in New York City and Boston.  On my way to visit the grave of a friend who died last December, I made a very simple morning altar from the abundance of tree cones that covered the ground near the cemetery office that was open by appointment only due to COVID-19.

I am grateful that Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods" brought me healing in connection with my father and R in time for Father's Day 2020.   I am sobered by the persistence of war and gun violence and moved by the persistence of human beings in our longing for peace.

Thanks to this blog for:

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.  [note:  am's emphasis]
Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?
* This poem is read during the last scene in Smoke Signals. It was
originally published in a longer version titled “Forgiving Our
Fathers” in a book of poems titled Ghost Radio published by Hanging
Loose Press in 1998


Anonymous said...

You made me cry. My father is a veteran of the Vietnam War. I hated him for the darkness he brought with him when he returned. It's taken decades to understand his pain. He died from the effects of Agent Orange. I did not attend his funeral. I was his favorite.

Thank you.

ellen abbott said...

I've never heard of them either. what is a morning altar?

am said...

Anonymous -- Your words show that you are a kindred spirit. Thank you for writing.

ellen abbott -- This link shows images of morning altars:

Originally, morning altars were mandalas made by Day Schildkret out of natural materials that he gathered in the early morning and arranged on the ground near his home in Northern California.

Anonymous said...

My father was a veteran of World War II. I am named for his mother Rose who died before I was born. My father always loved and protected. He made me feel safe and loved in an unsafe world. He's been going almost 30 years and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. I wish all fathers were like him. I wish all daughters had that love.

Tara said...

That poem. Yes, how to forgive our father. Mine, too, is difficult and also very sweet and captivating at times. I struggle with my feelings, so varied and fierce. He didn't have a good father himself and so his model was pretty much absent. I wish I had Robin's dad!! I've heard so many stories of him over the years. I wish I grew up feeling that loved and safe.

Thank you for this heartfelt and complex post.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Spike Lee fan. It's his style, not the content of his movies. I started watching Da 5 Blood last night. I stopped halfway through. It's a long movie. It's better than Apocalypse Now. Lee's movie has already altered my perspective. There's healing in that. It's taken ten years of therapy to get me past my father's PTSD. And my own.

That Nina Simone sang my song of my father too. Lord have mercy. I'd never heard it before. Thank you.

Sabine said...

This was very moving. Sadly, my father would never consider that beautiful Nina Simone song as worth listening to. He only appreciates music dating back at least 200 years.

As regards to my father, I am not looking for forgiveness, there is nothing he needs to be forgiven for. I think we all realised very early on what kind of person he is and where he is reliable, approachable and fatherly - and where not, would never be. I have met very few people where I felt a similar certainty. It still leaves me with a relationship that is often frustrating and complicated.

I have seen some of these altars but now I know what they are.

37paddington said...

I have not yet watched Da 5 Bloods but now you make me want to watch it. I am glad you found it healing. May we all be constantly healing and growing more whole.