Mr. Rogers

This week, the week my father died, was more about family than I would have imagined. He didn’t want a ceremony so there was no official “good-bye”. I’ll have to do that on my own, later, in private. However, I did have the chance to make it about family.

I saw a lot of people I love with this visit, and I feel like I’ve added as much to my family as I have lost. With my father’s death, I’ve had more and better contacts with my step-mother and her daughter. Both of my parents remarried, and I also saw my step-sister from my mom’s second husband and we had a really nice, frank talk. She’s got a big heart and I’m part of it; I am lucky.

My sister also remarried a man with four children, and I just spent the night with his youngest and his new wife. They are lovely and I feel like I’ve added them into my personal family loop, as well.

I now feel like my family is bigger than before. This is a very, very nice feeling. There are more people to love.

During all of this, my nephew downloaded the Mr.Rogers’s movie with Tom Hanks. I learned something from the movie (as I must have learned from Mr. Rogers when I was a child). Hanks showed how Mr. Rogers would try to be present, 100%, when he was with someone. He listened. He humbled himself before others. I want to get there myself someday. This is a goal.

I wonder how it might have been to have Mr. Rogers as a father (as I’m sure many have done before). The movie alludes to problems he had with his children, and I can see how someone who tries so hard to be good could alienate kids who sometimes just, well, don’t want to be good. They want to have fun, or be silly (in their own way, not the way their parents are which is usually annoying to kids). Most kids want to test the limits and that line must have been very easy to cross with a father who believes in such high standards (and probably, sometimes, can’t keep up to his own standards because everyone is fallible.) I can see that it would be very annoying to have someone, an icon of kindness, seem “fake” to them when they see that their father can be angry, or unreasonable, or annoying, or, in short, a human being like everyone else.

This is something all kids need to go through with their fathers, that I was able to partially do with my dad. I’ve written this before, but our parents really are all knowing when we are kids. They take care of us and feed us and bathe us. They try to figure out what we want and give it to us, partly because that’s what parents do and partly because we are crying and demanding and they want to do anything they can to get us to shut up. And we resent them (oh how we resent them) for the latter.

And when we become parents (or in my case, a teacher), we think that the kids already know how fallible we are. They don’t, and they resent us as we resented our parents, and that is just such a wasted emotion. It is unsaid words, and unmentioned pain, and it’s not necessary. Either talk about it or let it go.

I come home from saying good-bye to my father full of love, and full of the desire to become a better, kinder, more present person.

Fara, won’t you be my neighbor?

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