Your prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “to your left.” When you sit down to write your post, look to your left. What is the thing closest to you? Write about the memories that thing induces. Enjoy!
Dad is to my left.
We’re both up early, drinking our coffee and eating our oatmeal, because that’s what old Kohns men do.
I don’t think his hearing aids are in yet, because I’m having to look straight at him and talk louder than I’d rather at 6:30 am to be understood. No worries, though. One of the good thing about being a Kohns Man is that we can sit for hours (days… weeks?) with our books and our thoughts, requiring little to no human interaction. Some people would get bored or depressed. These times feed and refresh us.
One year, our family reunion was somewhere in central Ohio (we’re normally in Michigan) in order to shorten the drive for a number of us who have ended up settling in North Carolina. For some reason, dad came alone. I don’t remember why, but it doesn’t matter. He had his book. Or books. He had a picnic table outside the pup tent he had pitched for sleep, and he sat silently at that table and read. For hours. Days…
At the time, I thought it was odd that he wasn’t being more interactive with family he rarely gets to see. These are his siblings! Nieces and nephews! Ummm, HIS CHILDREN.
I get it now.
I probably got it THEN, too, but was still too deeply entrenched in performance orientation to understand that I’d be just as happy (happier?) sitting on my own and reading, too.
The Kohns Men have a profoundly deep inner world. Perhaps the Kohns women do, too. I can’t speak to that from personal experience, so I’ll stick to what I know. I know this. We are not uncaring. We are not rude. We are not “antisocial”, “aloof”, “cold”, or “emotionally unavailable”. In fact, speaking from 52 years and 11 plus months of personal experience (birthday coming up!), we are some of the kindest, compassionate, gentle, and deeply loving men you will ever find.
You just have to know what makes us tick. Which means you have to stick around. Our sticking around won’t be the issue. Plant us, and we will bloom wherever we find ourselves. Eventually.
It’s a slow bloom.
But here I am talking about the “us” of the Kohns Men when I’m supposed to be talking about who or what is “to my left” (but it’s also “stream of consciousness day” so…).
I thought for years that he wasn’t there for me. While he was obviously absent from me physically, as divorce had placed us 2 hours and 35 minutes apart from the age of 5, I also felt like he was absent emotionally. Let me reiterate: I FELT he was absent emotionally. Unfortunately, when you’re a kid without the ability to process “reality” at a higher level and ask the questions that need asking, feelings and perceptions became reality.
For years, I felt like an obligation, a necessary chore to pay off the cost of a bad marriage. Sure, we had a good time when we were together, but it was not the father/son picture that one envisions. To this day, picking out a Father’s Day card is nearly impossible. Look at the messages in June if you still have a Father to buy a card for. They need more writers who understand what it’s like to grow up weirdly estranged.
But here I am talking about me again.
He lost his own dad when he was only 10. Lost him completely. And from what I’ve learned, he was pretty “absent” before that.
“Dad, what are you memories of grandpa?”
He worked hard.
He was always tired.
My kids might say the same about me.
So back to what makes him/us tick. Silence and solitude feed us. Although he compensated for it in his career (he pastored for 30 years) the busyness of people interaction is exhausting and draining. I’m guessing by the time he got home, he just wanted to be alone in his head.
I get it.
But I didn’t for many years.
Let me tell you how I know now that my dad loves me.
In December 2018, I tried to take my own life. After a week in the ICU, I spent nearly two weeks on the inpatient psychiatric floor. During that time, my dad came to visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect and wasn’t sure how to respond to whatever it was I didn’t know to expect. In addition to being a pastor, he had also been a licensed therapist, and I was scared to death of being questioned and analyzed.
But there were no questions. No analyses. He just sat with me. He was quiet. He was present.
He was a Kohns Man.
My brother came to visit, too. We played cribbage.
Fifteen, two, fifteen four, a pair is six…
It was enough.
A year later, when I was still struggling with profound depression, my doctors thought a treatment course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) might help (it did). It would require three treatments per week for three to four weeks, and I would need to be at the hospital for prep by 6 am each time. On the day of each procedure, I’d be wiped out for the remainder of the day. The next day I’d feel like crap. Then, generally, the day after that was another treatment.
I did a lot of lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.
My dad moved in with us and took me to every. single. one. for two of the three weeks of treatment. He made me a meal if I felt like eating. And he did a mountain of unfinished chores and projects around my house.
He was quiet.
We didn’t talk much.
But I felt loved.
This is the love of a Kohns Man.
Sometimes it just takes longer for everyone around us to figure out what it looks like.
Sometimes, even a fellow Kohns Man struggles to see it.
I see it now.
I feel it now.
It is enough.