My dad’s 75th birthday was this past week, and to commemorate the event, he was able to gather all his children and grandchildren from disparate parts of the country for five days at Marble Mountain Ranch in Northern California. It took a tremendous amount of planning on his part, but the logistics coalesced smoothly and we all had a tremendous time. During one of our evenings together, my brother, sister, and I had planned a small private event to honor him in some way.
Over the previous several weeks, I had been mulling around ideas for a toast without feeling confident on any particular idea or theme. I wasn’t sure what to say but I definitely wanted to say something authentic and meaningful. In struggling through this process, I began to wonder why I was having so much difficulty. I love my father, but why was it so difficult for me to speak about it?
Focusing on What We Have
In the aftermath of my toast and while working on this post, I have come to recognize that thoughts of my father have often lingered upon on what he lacks instead of what he offers. My attention has often been directed towards his shortcomings, rather than what he adds and what he has given me.
Perhaps this sort of thinking is typical for many of us when we assess who we are and where we currently stand in our lives; we look at the past and reflect on our childhoods as a way to explain our own behaviors, assumptions, and beliefs. Instead of focusing on the present moment through the prism of abundance, we tend to see what is missing from our lives. We look to the past and our parents, not necessarily to blame them, but as a way to understand ourselves and our circumstances; to answer unsettled questions that currently occupy us.
Blind to My Good Fortune
However, this view of the self bends our thoughts toward what is missing, with the unintended fallout often manifesting in negative feelings and a lack of gratitude for the abundance in our lives; becoming blind to our own prosperity. While the sense and feelings of dissatisfaction are real and valid, perhaps our attention lingers there too long.
When we focus on what we lack, the next step is a search for an explanation. This inevitably leads to the past in a search for understanding, blame, and responsibility. The first stop is often our childhoods and parents.
In over attending to what’s absent, our thoughts deviate from all the riches in our lives; a loving family; wife, mom, dad, brother, sister, nieces, nephews; a great job that never feels like work; a home; food and water; the ability to walk, see, hear, smell, and taste. There is so much for which we can be grateful. Yet, we often don’t feel gratitude for our own prosperity and all the facets of our lives that we would sorely miss if we were to lose them. To some extent, the search and discovery of ourselves are necessary and healthy, but not at the expense of all the abundance in our lives. This tendency inevitably bends our mindset to the familiar adage and conclusion that we take so much for granted.
I didn’t realize to what extent this mindset had permeated my life until writing this post and reflecting on the toast I made to my father. While I had been thinking about what to say for several weeks, it wasn’t until the day before that everything congealed. With some time alone in our cottage within Marble Mountain Ranch, I closed my eyes and gently welcomed images of my father; not thoughts or anything directed with specific intent, but an open consciousness ready to allow the universe to bring what it may.
Images of my Father
I saw my father and I playing catch when I was a boy; the quintessential American moment between father and son. I was standing on the mound and he was kneeling behind the plate; playing both the role of catcher and the umpire with a generous strike zone. There was an imaginary batter who almost always managed to swing and miss; or if he got lucky, fouled the ball weakly down the sideline.
I saw a father with me at the pinewood derby and other cub scout events. I saw him driving me to all the soccer practices and tennis matches. As the images came to mind, both a smile and a tear ran down my face as I began to recognize how I always felt the love of a father who was always present; and how, in the end, one can’t ask for much more.
A Father’s Love
Places like the Marble Mountain Ranch certainly provide an amazing experience and a setting for these images and memories. However, we could have gathered anywhere and done anything because the memories would stick; not because of the place, but as a result of the residue of love between father and son, father and daughter; as well as grandfather and grandson and granddaughter.