We travel to California every two years, mostly to see family. However, when we had been there a few days, I realized that my parents were not doing as well as I had thought. They had kept elements of their health problems secret from me and my siblings, and it was only because I was living under their roof that I sorted a few things out.
It was a bizarre situation, asking them questions about their situation and then trying to figure out how much they weren’t telling me, or how much they were understating the truth. The irony was not lost on me: my parents had done the same thing with me as a teenager, listening to my explanations of what I was doing and why, trying to sort out what I was trying not to tell them. The most ironic moment came as I sat up waiting for my mother to return from the hospital after my father had had surgery, expecting her by 10 pm and waiting until midnight, anticipating the worst the whole time as I know my parents had done whenever I was late coming home.
Before my father went into the hospital for some routine surgery, he asked me for a blessing. We pulled a chair to the same spot where my father had given all of the kids blessings at the beginning of each school year, and I put my hands on my head, strangely terrified, trying to keep my mind blank. I don’t remember much of what I said, but I said a lot, and as we stood and we hugged, I realized he has become an inch or two shorter in the eight years I have been away. I felt an intense love and respect for him, but at the same time I had an unexpected desire to protect him.
Part of this is about me growing older, of my acquiescence that I am an adult and not just in my later youth. But I also felt in that moment what I hope an eternal family really is — an association of individuals with the hierarchies intact but redefined. I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing Malachi was talking about, but I certainly felt my heart and my father’s heart turn to each other.
To see the post I wrote on my last visit to California, it’s here. 90% of it is still true now.