106 and counting…

Dad & me, Tuesday, 7-29-86, Charleston Int'l Airport

Note: Today would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. William John Abernathy (August 7, 1911-April 27, 1996) and I had a difficult relationship; one fraught with the daily tension and enduring mutual resentment of the clash between his irresistible force of an alway-authoritarian, at times, arbitrary disposition and my ever-immovable object of adolescent rebellion (which continued well into my adulthood). O’er the years and o’er many trails of solemn reflection and trials of sober regret and sincerest repentance for my great part in our brokenness, I’ve come to understand, love, and respect my father. Today, the thought occurring (Why? I’m not entirely sure) to leaf through one of my journals, I found this forgotten (and astonishingly dated) twenty year old entry…

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Thursday, August 7, 1997: On Sunday evening, August 3, Pontheolla and I attended a Healing Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral. At the time worshipers were invited to come forward, we went and knelt at the altar rail. I asked “to be delivered from my long held bitterness against my departed father so that I can be free and so that he might be free!” I was anointed with oil and received the laying-on-of-hands by the celebrant, Ted Karpf, who prayed a prayer for my healing. I experienced then and continue to experience an ever-deepening sense, spirit of relief and of release. I wept a single, slow-moving tear of thankfulness as I sat with Pontheolla, holding hands, praying my healing would abide.

Ironies, painful and heart-rending, abound…

Ted had preached a homily, speaking eloquently and provocatively of the human condition, which finds self-worth in work and does not (cannot!) hear and respond to God’s gracious word of worth in being…simply being. Ted couldn’t have known that he was speaking so directly to one of my life’s issues, hurts, questions! (I pray my healing will abide.)

Moreover, the service was held in the War Memorial Chapel. Perhaps what I perceive as the irony of setting a service of healing in the place memorializing those who have died honorably in defense of country in times of war, if not intentional, was, at the least, purposeful. Verily, those who have endured the wars of acceptance and rejection in wounded, broken relationships need healing, for they have died a 1000 deaths and perhaps have killed others a 1000 times in those recurring mental scenarios of vengeance. (I pray my healing will abide.)

 

Photograph: Dad and me at the Charleston (SC) International Airport, Tuesday, July 29, 1986 (one of the few pictures of my father and me in which we are more or less smiling)

“and…most of the time!” – a personal reflection on human behavior, part 2

For years, I’ve said of myself, approaching self-parody, “I suffer from HMHD, ‘high maintenance, high drama’!” Truth be told, those around me, especially those who are nearest and dearest, oft suffer more than I from the excesses (is there any other mark or measure, quantity or intensity?) of my long-experienced, self-diagnosed condition of needy passion (or is it passionate neediness?). In a word, I know how “to act out” or “to go over the top” with my thoughts and feelings, my wants and needs in unhealthy and unhelpful ways that benefit and bless no one – not others, not myself.

Now, I would guess that most of the people I know would not suspect this about me. For I know, as my grandmother frequently directed, demanded, how “to present well”, how to appear, indeed, to be civil and convivial. Still, this part of me that flies in the face of expressing myself in ways that strengthen and sustain my healthy and helpful relationships with others (and with myself!) exists.

Knowing this, I’ve learned to be alert, particularly when my greatest needs (i.e., acknowledgment and acceptance) are not met, to the powerful passions of hurt and anger, resentment and bitterness and, in that awareness, to contain and control them (most of the time!) so to wait for a reasonable moment (most of the time!) and a responsible means (most of the time!) to express them, so not to harm others and myself (most of the time!).

More to come…