The 8 a.m. misty fog blanketed the windshield of my mom’s small SUV.
I couldn’t see more than 100 feet ahead of the car as I sat in the passenger seat, though I wouldn’t know because my focus was out the side window.
I was confused by how a warm, spacious sense of openness could fill my chest, while a large lump could simultaneously sit heavily in my throat. How could I feel this overwhelming sense of love and gaping sadness at the same time?
I was so full watching my Dad as he stood at the top of the driveway, smiling with his eyes, waving his hand, but I was devastated the motion was signaling a goodbye. He always does that without fail, even when I return to school during college. He would stand outside, waving bye until the car disappeared from his view. I imagine he learned the behavior, as his mom, my Nana, does the same.
For as long as I can remember, I have cried every time. No one would know it, as I never let anyone see my tears fall. My husband may have been a witness once or twice.
Once for sure, when COVID-19 stole this past Christmas from us. We had traveled over 2000 miles only to be able to stand at the end of my parent’s driveway, them in the garage. In the chilled winter wind, we were able to visit for about 10 minutes before hurrying to the airport to catch our rebooked flight.
When we left, he stood at the top of the driveway delivering that same loving wave that pushed the lump in my throat upward, transforming into tears.
I always check in with the wet drops moving down my face; sometimes, they are tears of sadness that our visit is concluding. My salty Christmas eye drops of depression were out of grief from Covid stealing time from us. Other times, my tears fall from feeling an overwhelming sense of appreciation.
The last trip to California left me with a mix of feelings that I wanted to understand. So, as I usually do when I seek clarification from my heart, I put pen to paper and don’t let my hand stop writing as I muse about my experience. The source of love and sadness swirling in my chest when I watched my Dad wave goodbye has been revealed to me; about 20 minutes into journaling, I wrote, “My Dad is able to be, and chooses to be, present and aware, like no one else has ever shown me.”
Holding those words, I flashbacked to just three days prior when Mom was driving us to the airport. Dad didn’t go as he had to help a friend that day. I recognized that the tears I felt brewing in my throat as I watched him wave goodbye, were out of appreciation that he gave me such a rare gift of presence. And that—is the most precious gift we can provide; presence.
Don’t get me wrong; every visit home is always abundantly full. I have a fantastic family who showers us with love through delectable food. This past trip was no exception. My mom went over-the-top preparing sandwiches, spreads, and her chocolatey nut treats. Aunt Connie baked her delicious biscotti, so good you can taste the love. Nana’s homemade Italian dishes leave everyone wanting recipes (which we could never actually get because they’re carefully written in her head and measurement free).
Then the actual gifts galore; shopping sprees from mom, perfectly suited and funny sayings of tees and goodies from my cousin Adlanta, a dear friend Vicki and her family who let us experience their healing farm, and way too generous gift cards from Aunt Georgie. I could go on in my gratitude for the love and gifts we always receive.
We are blessed, and my heart feels genuinely over-the-moon thankful for the many gifts passed on.
And there was, as my musings revealed, the greatest of all. Presence.
Not that others didn’t intend to be present, they did. Though I probably spent the most time with my Dad, so I experienced it most through his modeled behavior.
According to Merriam Webster, the word presence defined in the dictionary is:
>> the part of space within one’s immediate vicinity
>> the actual person or thing that is present
>> something present of a visible or concrete nature
>> a noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness
>> something (such as a spirit) felt or believed to be present
While none of these feel resonant to me, of all of the above, the last is the most fitting of what I experienced: being able to feel a soul connection. Thanks to my Dad’s example, I am aware of what that means and will strive to create more of it.
He never fills space but holds it. He won’t speak meaningless stories of others but asks about our life instead.
He engages in conversation more by listening.
He doesn’t say meaningless words but listens patiently for embodied sentences to reflect.
He will not gossip as a form of connection. Instead, he’ll share wisdom like how to cook a perfect artichoke or point out the beauty of a walnut.
He won’t force space to be filled with meaningless words or actions and is okay being with you in silence.
He is okay if being present means feeling a tad of pain or having a difficult conversation, but he keeps it in emotional balance, never erupting.
He always holds eye contact.
He will take part in activities to do with us, not necessarily for us.
He doesn’t always understand my life, and the work I do, but asks and lets me know he wants to take the time to learn.
He puts down his phone, checks in, listens, and pauses.
Overall, he holds impeccable space for life to unfold and be in the moment. While he may share old stories and talk about his wishes, he lives in a way that affirms the past is behind him, and the future is not yet here.
He lives in the now and embraces togetherness for what is.
No gift in the world, food in my belly, nor a word spoken, could ever help me create the same feeling of love that swarms through my soul as when someone is fully present. His examples inspire me to be more present for the people I love.
I would love to hear from you on how you are present for others. My husband often says I am the worst multitasker he knows. Knowing the feeling that blesses me each time my Dad is present for me, I am committing to being more aware and present for those I love.
May the now bless you!