Fatherhood Does Not End

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July 31, 2022- The teen boy was moaning and complaining that he could not take it anymore. The “it’ in question was the pain from an injury he had sustained the previous night, and which he was trying to tough-out. That was not working, and I asked a team mate to help me find a First Aid kit, which she brought me from the kitchen at Bellemont Baha’i School. I got out the appropriate materials and handed them to the boy’s stepfather, who was standing nearby. He gladly applied the dressing to the injured area, and the boy had a much better day.

I observed this man taking his parental responsibilities seriously, with all four of his stepchildren and the daughter he himself sired, a toddler who was delightful. Seeing him play with her, and be constantly guiding her to show good manners and respect for others, was a treasure. The girl already knows to share and to say please and thank you. She will also grow up strong and forthright, under his watchful eyes.

Fathering is more than a figurehead position and, like motherhood, never ends. My son is facing a plethora of challenges right now, and my place is to offer encouragement, support and belief in his ability to rise to them. If he falters, I will at least, as my own father once said, be there to catch him-even from a physical distance. One cannot deprive another of dignity, nor make decisions for that person-even one’s own child, after a certain age. Support, however, is the due of every soul who is facing own life with honour and effort.

Parenthood never really ends.

Role Model

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May 30, 2022- It’s been little over eight years since Pops left us. My father-in-law, Norman D. Fellman, regarded his two sons-in-law as the boys he never had. I got a ton of advice, the greater part of it useful, and I can credit that advice for much of how our son has grown into manhood.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Norm was taken prisoner by the German Army, in December, 1944, in the southern sector of the Battle of the Bulge. He was held, until just before V-E Day, at Berga, a substation of Bergen-Belsen Prisoner-of-War and Concentration Camp, just southeast of Gera, Thuringia. He, and a few dozen other “undesirables” (Jews, Romani and Mexican-Americans) were assigned onerous tasks, day in and day out. His crew went to a salt mine. Norm and one of the Mexican-Americans would prank the Germans, constantly, putting glue in the salt and adding gravel underneath a three or four inch coating of salt. He never said where he got the glue; in fact, he rarely talked about his experience, until President Clinton lifted a lingering gag order that had stifled World War II veterans, since President Truman’s tenure.

There were many aspects of his personality and ways of doing things, from which I have drawn wisdom. He made me realize that I was not a substandard person, and that my rights were the same as anyone else’s, but that I had to stand up and expect them. It is because of Pops that I became quite forceful in standing up for Aram, and for summoning every bit of inner strength, to care for his daughter, my wife, in her years of decline. He knew, when I was being attacked by state bureaucrats, who told him that I was lax in her care, that this was bunk. (The upshot was that they wanted her to be placed in a state home, thus giving them access to her disability payments. This, of course, did not happen-and she lived out the rest of her days in an environment of HER choosing.)

Pops-and Mother- had the bounty of being well-tended by their youngest daughter, still one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met, until their respective deaths in May, 2014 and October, 2018. That is the true beauty of a force of example: It redounds to the benefit of the role model, in one’s final days.

Life Blood

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September 15, 2021- It has taken a long time, but I think a contact in another country far from here has finally mustered the self-confidence to advocate for his children. Strong parenthood is one of the life bloods of a child who grows ready to face a life of challenges. The other key elements are strong will, a sense of humour and an inborn love for humanity.

I spent a good part of today greeting people at a Red Cross Blood Drive. 27 people donated one blood product or another-a good effort that matters in the current environment of disease, fire and flood. Blood, both actual and allegorical, is what drives human life and its various efforts.

I have had good friends tell me that money is the life blood of society. It has a key role to play, certainly, as there isn’t a whole lot of physical progress that can take place, over time, without some medium of exchange. Even a hermit farmer has to buy seeds, at least initially. I also recognize that water, which is after all the primary medium of blood, is then the “blood” of all life. Then, too, humaneness is the social life blood. No one can really thrive, unless treated humanely, over time.

Finally, though, I recognize that love is the ultimate life blood. Nothing can exist for long without it.

You Only THINK…

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March 10, 2021-

A story I heard today set me to musing.

In reality, there is no time when I don’t love my family members, to a one. You only THINK that I have left you behind.

There is no amount of trouble that could turn me away from my child. You only THINK that time and distance have crafted a wall.

There is no barrier tall or thick enough that could get between me and my God. Some only THINK that they can be that impediment.

There is no lie enticing enough, shimmering enough, to convince me that down is up. Some only THINK that its repetition will do the trick.

There is no true link between narcissism and piety. The narcissist only THINKS that a tie can be contrived between the two.

Be careful. What you think becomes your reality. It will not become mine.

Likability is Contagious

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November 7, 2019-

When I was a child, I was not “picked” for a team until last, most of the time, because of my relative lack of  coordination.  I was, however, not an unpopular person, mainly because everyone was welcome in my yard, and in my sandbox.  The disputes I had with some neighbourhood kids were never permanent.  I was taught that I was not the center of the Universe.

Jordan Peterson entitles his fifth rule for life “Don’t Let Your Kids Behave in A Way That Makes You Dislike Them”.  He notes that many parents vehemently deny that they could ever dislike their children.  I was not one of those.  When our son did something that was distasteful or reprehensible, I thought to myself that it would be remiss of me, as a father, to gloss over it.  So, I corrected him and established the lesson, that what his mother and I found unlikable, other people would also be inclined to take umbrage.

In seeing what he did that was unlikable, I also had to face myself, and look to see if I was also behaving the same way.  Penny was good at making me take account for my flaws, and vice versa.  We helped one another shed a fair amount of baggage, and after her passing, I had to shed a lot more-sometimes with the unwanted help of online critics but most often with my one-on-one self-critiques.

Today, he is largely a self-starter, and has weathered quite a few storms-many of which were not of his own making.  He has many friends and has found a wonderful woman, with whom to build a life.  None of this would have happened, had he been saddled with laissez-faire parents and absent extended family.  Penny’s parents were present, every step of the way, and my siblings took their avuncular duties seriously.

Dr. Peterson has thus encapsulated the need of the human being for constructive criticism, as well as praise, when it is warranted; that we innately have a need for boundaries to be set, as a way to know that we are in a safe environment.  There is no finer gift that a parent can bestow upon a child.

Burning the Mask of Obligation

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October 13, 2018, Prescott-

Obligations are things one takes on, in order to please other people.  They could become passions, which are those things one takes on out of sincere spirit and pure love.   Parenthood, spouseship and a sane and intelligent patriotism are examples of the latter.

In this life, however, there are obligations each of us take on, which raise the person to whom we feel obliged to the status of superior, or master.  Unless one feels passionate about the activity  in which s(he) or he is involved, the obligation becomes a false one.  Many holiday celebrations, for example, become empty rote activities- none of them memorable.  Going to the place of employment, for all too many people, is an empty obligation.  Even having a conversation, if there is no passion, involves putting on the mask of caring, almost a political and vapid exercise.  It fools no one, except, perhaps, oneself.

I have been in the process of shedding obligations, for the past seven years.  Marriage was an act of living love, and never felt like an empty obligation.  There were plenty of moments of misunderstanding, but the passion did not disappear.   Fatherhood is an act of living love, even when miscommunication and physical distance seem to create a sense of discord.  The passion does not disappear.

Working with children and youth is an act of living love, even when their behaviour seems to be enough to drive one to the edge of insanity.  The passion cannot disappear.

Growing as a spiritual being is the greatest of passions- otherwise I would likely dissipate as a person. This means two things:  Do not filter communication, no matter how seemingly drawn out it may be.  Presence is a burden, when viewed in the least obligatorily.  It can only be viewed, from a passionate viewpoint, by not filtering the subject presenting self, in any way.  This requires being totally non-judgmental, as to what is worthy of one’s attention and to what is trifling or frivolous.  How many wars have been started, and fought, because of a perceived or real slight?

So, as I look at obligations, great and small, and bring those that matter to the level of passion-I must chance the burning of the masks of obligation, that I may show the real face that comes with passion.

NEXT:  The Mask of Self-Disdain

 

My Life Thus Far: The Eighties

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February 20, 2016, Prescott- Today was spent in spiritual study, and an hour or so will be so used, tomorrow afternoon.  All of this was initiated by my beloved, and because of her, the decade of my thirties brought a whole new outlook on life.  The 1980’s were one of the two best decades of this life, up to now.

1980-High Point:  Meeting Penny (December 6)

Low Point:  Scrambling to find housing in Flagstaff (September)

People in the heart:  Penny Fellman, my future wife; my Flagstaff housemates, Mohammed Saeedi, Chris Lugenbuhl and Carol Vireday; the anonymous guys who gave me rides, to/from Oregon; my Mesa friends, the Lunts.

Places in the heart: Flagstaff;  Durango; Zuni; San Diego; Laguna Beach; Redwood National Park; Hebo, OR; Portland; Eugene; Crater Lake; San  Luis Obispo; Santa Barbara.

1981- High Point:  My entry into the Baha’i Faith.

Low Point:  Our temporary break-up.

People in the heart:  Penny; the Cordova family; the Beausoleils; the Travises; Mishabae Mahoney; Hilde Mc Cormick; John Carrillo (my office mate and sounding board); my first nephew and niece, Chris and Marcy.

Places in the heart:  Flagstaff; Tuba City; Dinnebito, AZ; Capitol Reef National Park; Natural Bridges National Monument; San Diego; Julian.

1982- High Points:  Our wedding (June 6); our Baha’i Pilgrimage (June 16- 30).

Low Point: Getting organized into a household.

People in the heart:  My wife; both Moms and Dads; the San Diego Baha’i Community; the Tong family; the staff of the Baha’i World Centre; the Baha’is of London; my mentor at Northland Pioneer College.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; San Diego; Julian; Dinnebito; Bedminster, NJ; Jerusalem; Haifa; Akko; Bethlehem; London; Canterbury;  Saugus; Bedminster; Standoff, AB; Yellowstone National Park; Bozeman, MT.

1983- High Points:  The Wildfire Conference, at De Pauw University; Baha’i teaching in southern New Mexico and Metro El Paso; my brother, Glenn’s wedding.

Low Point:  My Nana died.

People in the heart:  Penny ( and this goes without saying, until the day she passed); the Baha’is of Tuba City, Dinnebito, Jemez, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso and Chicago; the Biernackes, of El Paso; my second niece, Melanie; my second nephew, Jeff.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Dinnebito; Blue Canyon, AZ; Jemez Springs; Durango, CO; Silverton; Ouray; Great Sand Dunes National Park; Chama; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Chicago; Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL; Greencastle, IN; Las Cruces; Berino, NM; El Paso; Fabens, TX; Andover, MA.

1984- High Points:  Baha’i teaching in Guyana, Pine Ridge, SD and Macy, NE.

Low Point: The passing of Gordon Tong, our Baha’i friend and mentor.

People in the heart:  Our Guyanese  hosts; the people of Pine Ridge and of the Omaha Nation; our friends and our co-workers on the Navajo Nation; Elizabeth Dahe and her family; our  hosts in Houston and Oklahoma; my third nephew, Nick.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Burntwater, AZ; Houston; Ada, OK; Georgetown, Bath, Whim and Meten meer zorg, GY; New York; Macy, NE; Wanblee, Pine Ridge, and Martin, SD; Fort Collins, CO.

1985- High Point:  Both sets of parents visiting.

Low Points:  The deaths of three Navajo boys, in two separate accidents; our separation, while Penny was in Graduate School ( a month is a long time).

People in the heart:  Our parents; Jeff and Helen Kiely; the Baha’is of Dinnebito and Ganado, AZ; my third niece, Kim; my fourth nephew, Matt.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Flagstaff; Dinnebito; Polacca, AZ; Red Rock State Park, OK; Effingham, IL; Columbus, OH; Michigan City, IN; Wilmette and Evanston, IL; Grand Canyon; Lake Powell; Prescott; Montezuma’s Castle National Monument; Sedona; Phoenix.

1986- High Point: Our move to Jeju, South Korea, for Penny’s work, as Visiting Professor.

Low Point:  My father’s passing.

People in the heart:  Our parents; my siblings, our extended family; my fifth nephew, Curtis; our friends and co-workers in Arizona and in South Korea.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Los Angeles; Seoul, Songtan and Jeju, South Korea; Saugus.

1987- High Point:  My hiring as Visiting Professor, in Jeju.

Low Point:  Having to leave Penny behind for a month, to get a work visa.

People in the heart:  Our Korean colleagues, students and friends; three surviving parents;  our siblings; our friends in Flagstaff.

Places in the heart:  Jeju, Muan, Pusan and Seoul, South Korea; Los Angeles; Portland; Seattle; Butte; Madison, WS; Chicago; Wilmette, IL; Saugus; Bedminster; Greenville and Simpsonville, SC; New Orleans; Phoenix; Honolulu; Tokyo.

1988-High Point: The birth of our son, Aram (July 7).

Low Point:  None, actually.

People in the heart:  Aram (from this point on); the Baha’is of Jeju;  Dr. Kim Chung Hak; our students;  our hosts and friends in Taiwan; Penny’s parents (who flew to Korea for Aram’s birth).

Places in the heart:  Jeju; Pusan; Tsaot’un, Chungli, Taich’ung and T’aipei, Taiwan;

1989- High Point:  Bringing Aram to the United States, to meet our family.

Low Point:  Feeling threatened, while visiting Maine.

People in the heart:  Our extended family; our students; the Baha’is of Jeju and Seoul.

            Places in the heart:  Jeju; Anchorage; New York, Bedminster; Saugus; Lynn, MA; Eliot, ME.

So, while visiting Durango, in November, 1980, I had this inkling that I was ready to meet someone special.  It didn’t happen that weekend, nor on my 30th birthday trip to San Diego.  It was on an Anthropology class trip to Zuni, where Penny and I first connected.  Turns out, she also had had a vision, while meditating on a mesa above her residence in Keams Canyon, AZ, where she was teaching at the time.  The message said that she, too, would meet someone.

Our on again, off again, 18-month friendship became a marriage that lasted, physically, for 29 years.  I believe in the eternity of marriage, and though she’s gone from Earth, we still connect, daily.  We had our ups and downs, especially in the early years, but never went to bed angry with one another.

My entry into the Baha’i Faith helped me cast out the demon of alcohol dependency, and put me on a path to dealing with my larger demon, of self-doubt.  Baha’u’llah has opened up many powerful channels within me- at least I feel them.

Aram’s arrival made me be responsible for someone other than the two of us.  Raising him to adulthood was the only big task that God has ever given me.  While I wasn’t the greatest father to have been given the bounty, I gave it a good, solid effort and he is an amazing young man.

We traveled a lot, the two of us, then the three of us, mostly in service to our Faith and to visit family. The Eighties were a decade of primarily air travel, though crowding into a Peugeot, and then a lorry (truck), in Guyana, was quite an adventure.  Our Toyota Tercel got quite a workout, those four years we lived in Tuba City.  It became a young lady’s first car, when we moved to Korea.

Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Sites, in Haifa and Akko, Israel was the seminal defining point of the decade.  Our marriage, and the birth of our son, six years later, were entirely safeguarded by our having begun life together, in this manner.

The Nineties would be a second amazing decade.