My teenage son awoke from a classic anxiety dream the other morning: he dreamt he was sitting in a high school math class, totally unprepared, and fearful of the consequences. The timing of the dream is right, since today is Continuation Day at his school, and Jordy joins 20 or so of his classmates in a ceremony that functions as graduation from middle school. He’ll wear a tux, give a speech, and then go off to play laser tag and have a pool party with classmates.
His anxiety will be forgotten with a fun summer ahead, and knowing my son, his math skills, and his diligence as a student, he’ll likely not actually experience the sort of scene that caused him to wake in horror the other day.
When my dad was alive, and especially the last several years that he lived in my town, and was in my care, he seldom mentioned his dreams, or his anxieties. I would occasionally hear about some quirky thought that had occurred to him in the night. Less often, my dad might briefly let on about a fear or concern.
He was of the generation, and the gender, that kept stuff to themselves. Even as his mind faded fast, and his health as well, I was never able to engage my father in sharing what he was thinking – let alone how he was feeling – about aging and the end of life.
While I am often said to be the ‘touchy-feely’ type, a sensitive new-age, baby-boomer sort of guy who is quick to open up, some might say in excess to obsess about feelings, my son claims to be more of a thinker.
I need to be honest and say that I hope he trends more toward my style and type than his Papa, that he learns to be open and honest about his range of feelings – whether happy or sad or scared or confused or angry or ecstatic or anxious or whatever – so that he does not risk the loneliness, the isolation, and the ultimate lack of connection that I saw my father face during much of his life.
Our feelings are what connects us with others. A beating heart, filled with a vast range of human emotions, is the one thing that we all have in common. I truly hope to keep my heart open, to always share with those who care, and to let my son know that he can do the same, that I am among many who will encourage his heart, abate his anxiety, and celebrate joyously with him, on this Continuation Day, and many other milestones in the years ahead.
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.