If I were a judgmental person, I might say that I devoted a quarter-century of my life admiring a man who was unworthy of it. I might say that I spent all that time looking up to and learning from a man who should have been learning from me but had such debilitating blind spots that he would not and could not do so. If I were a judgmental person I might say that he squandered his wisdom and lived out the last years of his life as I never would.
If I were a judgmental person I might say that he had acquired everything the world has to offer–wealth, prominence, respect, glorious experiences–but that he had forfeited its greatest treasures and was, in the end, a failure.
I have read his obituary, written and rewritten countless times by his own hand, and know it is all true but tells only part of the story. If I were a judgmental person I would pen in all the omissions in red and would write that he died with an agonized look on his face. I would write that even though he was surrounded in his last days by children who craved his love, he refused to give it and in the end slipped away, struggling and alone.
But I am not a judgmental person. I loved that old man and told him so. Yet he never said, “Me too.” I don’t think he knew how to say such a thing because he never loved himself nor accepted his own imperfections.
I still cherish the crumbs of his approval, even though it never was a full meal. I think it was the very best he could do. I was fortunate compared to others who deserved his love more than I. As far as I know, he never disapproved of me. I was part of a small club.
I do know that the work I have been doing for kids left him cold. He never warmed up to it, even though he found it interesting in the way a bloody car wreck is interesting to someone driving by. I think he was mystified by how I could love such imperfect people.
Even though he craved love, I think he was mystified that anyone could love him.
But I did and I always will.
Groove of the Day
“Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”
~ Groucho Marx