What Do Fathers Do?
by Donna Roy
It depends on who they are, who they came in as, who their mothers and fathers were. At their best fathers teach, protect, inspire, love without condition, provide, show courage. They share enough of themselves for their children to understand their place in the world of men and women. They offer the kind of presence that helps a small child feel safe in the big world. They model ways to connect based on respect and honor. They show feelings and value them as powerful. They act with integrity and know when to concede. They offer their children a template for masculinity.
Certainly, not all fathers live up to this. Mine did and didn’t in ways that I see more clearly now. But I did write the above paragraph from my own experience. It is also true that I could have written a paragraph about guilt and tears and disappointment connected to me and my dad. Both were part of my history.
My dad inspired me to join the Peace Corps, though he wasn’t that thrilled with my actual decision and it was my mom who visited me in Korea while I lived there. But it was my dad’s exciting stories of his time as a medic in Okinawa and Korea during the Korean War that made me want to go to this magical land. Somehow his attitude of curiosity and respect about people very different than him settled deeply into my psyche. Never has left, actually.
He was also the inspiration for me to become a therapist—though via a circuitous route. As a kid I wanted to be a doctor, a healer of people’s bodies—something he came close to but never fully realized. Once in college I met organic chemistry and recognized an unfathomable foe, but that other kind of mystery my dad had opened my eyes to was still calling—the unknown worlds of other cultures. Over time I lived, studied and worked in Germany, Korea and Bangladesh, and traveled to many more foreign places.
The eventual work of being a therapist was a result of my fascination
with the unknown and unknowable in the human psyche and my desire to heal pain—both still influences of a father to a father’s daughter.
My 24-year-old daughter just returned from South Africa, where she was volunteering in a sanctuary as a surrogate mother for orphan baboons. Her passion is the conservation of wildlife and her plan is to return to Africa. In thinking about fathers and being a daughter, I reread some of my husband’s poetry written when our children were young. The stanzas below, written when our daughter was 14 years old, show a father’s awareness of a daughter’s heart.
Dear Hannah, My Daughter Hannah
You come to know your way around forests.
You come to know the animal people.
You hear their stories and learn their lessons.
You learn who and what you lean toward.
Forests will come to know you.
The animal people will come to know you.
They will listen to your stories and they will
Learn lessons from you.
Who and what they lean toward.
We will sit around the fire
With Mother West Wind, and
Eat and tell our stories.
February 23, 2002
Some fathers speak directly to what’s inside the child; some indirectly. My dad was best at the indirect; my husband, the direct. Either way, they each influenced and held their children in deep and powerful ways out of their real and complex humanity.
Room to Room
for my father
by Jon Eisman
I have no money for you.
I have no salt, or pie.
I will send you a postcard
from the future, if it comes,
if I recognize it, if it comes.
I am not bitter. I am breathing, I am
I was there when I needed me.
I remember waving to you in your blue topcoat,
through the hospital window, through
the bars of the crib you left me in
when you went home to your wife and
your dinner on a table and
my brothers and I needed you.
The nurses hurt me. One day
you didn’t come, someone took me room to room
to look for you.
Through endless ghosts in striped bathrobes,
I thought I’d find you. I have not
run out of rooms yet, I am hoping
it will be the next room. Or the next.
Now when I hear from you, you are
hurt, wandering from room to room,
looking for someone who might be yourself, angry
that I have not found you. This
makes me cry. I, who have searched so long, I,
with youth like a motor in my, have failed.
What chance have you? I cannot
fund your search. I have no food,
no extra towels, I am here
with my hands in my empty pockets. I am hoping
the past will have never happened.
I am waving to you through the window.
I have no grief for you.
I have no milk.
The Father’s Vow
by Jon Eisman
While you’re down in Mexico
kicking the waves back into the sea, I
am here writing bad poetry with my feet
in the last puddles of winter.
I imagine Mama stretched out, gazing
at dreams that ought to be,
while you jump at the pop of a crab’s head
from a dropped shell, or squat
flat-foot to study a troop of ants
marching over a mango pit.
And still, in some dark hole of a dungeon filled
with bones and birthblood deep
in a collapsing hotel in your white heart,
the timeless witch with the face of a shark
is eating her way up to the light,
to forget my safe hands on your back
as you cried and we walked
the night-light lit night,
my hushed voice wrapping your tiny sleep
in a knot. I tell you, my star,
if you cross that edge of glittering foam
and tumble out where the sky falls down,
I will find you and lift you
high as a coconut, bright as a parrot.
Mama will rise from her towel to
catch your toes as I lay you down
to dream again of the farm and the hills,
and, for our given time,
to sway in the sound of my breath singing
now, and soon, and always, and us.
M.E.T.A. invites all members of the community to submit letters, articles, poems, etc. for possible inclusion in the M.E.T.A. newsletter. Here is an open letter to the community from M.E.T.A. student and local practitioner, Jenn Gierada.
A Student’s Musings
by Jenn Gierada
I never know what I’m going to write in this newsletter. Then I always write about what I know, which is me, and which is then all of us, at least at the core (how handy, this grand design, eh?). And so:
From a very young age I understood – unconsciously, then consciously – that my life’s purpose is evolution. I pursued it inwhatever ways were available to me; hence my teenage insistence on feeling my feelings without knowing why that was important; hence my pursuit of somatic wisdom as a dancer; hence becoming a full-on self-help junkie in my early 30’s; hence my discovery of M.E.T.A. I give thanks to all my guides: dance teachers and friends and monks and PhDs, licensed and unlicensed therapists, my wise and loving partner, and even the walking limbic system that is our little dog Chico.
This article is simply gratitude. I write it from me and for us all.
I give thanks to my unique, beautiful, complex, longing human self, my divine connection and Being, and this most precious and newly experienced place in me where the two are one. I give thanks to M.E.T.A. for offering a way.
I give thanks to my cohort and our trainers and TAs for creating a fertile ground, ripe for transformation and learning; and for the personal and professional reflection I am given there in ways both spoken and silent. I give thanks for my clients, who perfectly reveal their wholeness in every moment. I give thanks for my drive, for my growing, changing ability, and for the opportunity to help others (oh how I give thanks for this!). I give thanks for right timing.
I give thanks for this amazing life and its perfectly complex and constant unfolding. To stand consciously on the edge of evolution with so many others is a gift, and I am thankful with everything I am and everything I am always becoming. I give thanks for my ongoing learning process and my lifelong trust in it. I know that I am always arriving and that there is no final destination, only each moment that already is. In each perceived stumble and fall there exists the jewel of perfection – the fact of it – and for this I give abundant thanks.
I give thanks for the formula of each training weekend, which my partner recently pointed out: Something happens that makes me fragment – an interaction, a new way of seeing, a new technique that feels impossible and awkward. My old friends Insecurity and Doubt show up as I move into the darkness of unknowing – but there’s a sense of hovering, the whisper of surrender. Then some kind of magical transformation happens where the sun comes out from behind the clouds and I return home to myself, with acceptance, possibility and determination. I give thanks for this monthly journey of renewal and re-membering; I see it as the foundation for my practice, upon which I build these M.E.T.A. skills.
This life is a trip.