My vulnerability and why I’m thankful for it.

Dad and I shooting pool. We both won.

Two years ago, I wrote this last-minute Thanksgiving blog about my mom’s recent heart surgery, and my gratitude that she survived.

This year, she’s gone.

I lost my best girlfriend, but I gained a surprising new confidante–my dad.

What’s important is our current connectedness.

When I was sixteen, I never could have imagined sitting on the couch next to my dad with my legs up on his lap, discussing our dreams and fears late into the night. I never could have imagined us side-by-side, holding hands, sharing our deepest feelings. Not that long ago, if you had told me a day would come when no one in my family would understand me as well as my dad, I’d have suspected you of imbibing a little too much holiday sauce.

Yet, it has all come to pass.

When I was younger, my dad and I didn’t relate well to each other. He was an involved father with all six of us kids–changing diapers, building a backyard ice rink, attending games and performances–whatever was needed. He said, “I love you,” regularly, and I knew he meant it. But we just didn’t bond emotionally. I closed my heart to him. The complicated dynamics of our previous relationship don’t really matter–what’s important is our current connectedness.

I’m trying to pinpoint when this new relationship with my dad started, but it was less a point and more an evolution.

Since 2016, when my declining health forced me to leave my job, Dad has never neglected to ask me how I’m feeling. And in spite of the embarrassing symptoms, humiliating symptom-management, and undignified procedures I’d endured, nothing was ever TMI for him. His only concern was for me. The more I shared my distress, the more love he gave.

Vulnerability is an opening for love.

Vulnerability was not a state or characteristic I’d have associated with my dad in the past. He was used to being the family provider, his rock-hard Catholic faith buoying him through stressful times. But as my mother’s health declined, and she became more and more in need of care, my father wondered what the future held, and for how long. His faith wobbled.

Dad felt unmoored, perhaps for the first time. And I felt deep compassion for him, perhaps for the first time. His floundering to find his footing opened a place in my heart that had often been closed to him. It was an opening for love.

We’re often afraid to share our angst, our fears, our unsettledness. It’s risky. Others may think poorly of us or act unkindly. They may use our weakness against us. It’s wise to be cautious.

But sometimes a risk pays off. It did for Dad and me. I’m glad we’re flawed human beings because it is our shared vulnerability that brought us together.

This Thanksgiving, you may have an opening to share your vulnerabilities. Dare you take it? If you do, please let me know!

Regardless, I wish you a day filled with deliciousness of every variety.

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Mom would have been proud.

Mom and me in better days.

Since my mom died a few weeks ago, I’ve felt compelled to write and post here more than usual. Up until now, I’ve honored my pledge to “under-whelm” your inbox by posting a blogonly once a month. That goal was also self-serving in that I didn’t “have to” post here more often. (To clarify, I do write often, just not blogs for my website.)

Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey.

But here I am, my third post in less than a month. I hope you understand.

Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey and my goal of publishing my memoir. Before she died, I had told her about a big “first” for me: being interviewed about my memoir on the Midlife A-Go-Go podcast. Mom was excited, but she never got to listen.

I wish I could hear her voice.

When the interview first aired last week, I believe Mom heard it. I believe she knows all that goes on in my life, more so than she did while she was earthbound. But still, I find myself waiting for her call to tell me how proud she is. I wish I could hear her voice. I imagine it, I hear it in my head, but I ache for the real thing.

Since I won’t hear from Mom, maybe you can listen for a few minutes and tell me your thoughts. It would give me a smile. Mom, too.

Please ignore the “You can also listen….” I can’t edit or delete it, but it won’t affect your listening pleasure!

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An old introvert learns new tricks.

Two people discuss what it's like to be "peopled out."
Credit: Aaron Caycedo-Kimura. Used with permission.

Before my mom died, she and my dad regularly ate lunch in the dining room of their senior facility. Mom didn’t have the energy to make it down for breakfast and dinner, so they had those meals delivered to their apartment.

Mom, an extrovert, missed the socializing, but the schedule suited Dad, an introvert. I take after Dad, so when I visited, the limited “peopling” suited me, too.

For introverts, “peopling” is draining rather than energizing.

When our trio went down for lunch, I pulled out every reluctant extrovert cell in my body (and there are a few) for a song-and-dance-show. I turned on the charm. Since Mom wasn’t always her usual bubbly self and she so desperately wanted to make friends, I tried to be her girlfriend ambassador.

Those ninety-minute lunches drained me, but it was OK since I had a whole day to recover.

In case you don’t know, one of the hallmarks of being an introvert is not that you dislike people and/or socializing, but that “peopling” is draining rather than energizing. And just like any drained battery, introverts need to recharge.

After Mom died two weeks ago, I thought Dad might wither away in his room, but he put on his big boy pants and started going down to all three meals. I’m visiting him now, still turning on the charm at lunch and sometimes dinner, this time on his behalf.

After one particular noisy lunch gathering, my charm quickly wore thin. “I can’t believe you do this every day,” I told Dad on our way back to his apartment.

Introverts need to recharge.

When I got back, I opened my email, found this article about introverts and the cartoon above by the talented Aaron Caycedo-Kimura. It nailed my exact feelings. When I showed it to Dad, he agreed, with a laugh.

For too many decades, I was so caught up in people-pleasing, in wanting to fit it with the extrovert world, I ignored my need for solitude. And although I often enjoyed “peopling,” I ignored my need for recovery.

Mom and I had often talked about our extrovert and introvert experiences, but Dad and I never bonded over our introvert inclinations. Until now.

At eighty-seven, newly widowed after sixty-three years of marriage, Dad is living proof that it’s never too late to learn and you’re never too old to grow.

At sixty, newly bonded with my dad, I’m learning and growing, too.

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