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Posts Tagged ‘choices’

This post is written mostly for my siblings.  It may become tedious for others, and perhaps for my siblings, too.  After this conversation with my father last Thursday, sitting on a bench gazing out over Dealaman Pond, I hope to live my life a little differently, a little truer to myself.  Perhaps this post is more about me than it is about my father.

Dad gazing out over Dealaman Pond

I wanted to try tapping into a different part of Dad’s brain.  Rather than dig into the past, I wanted to see where his imagination might take him.

“What do you think the world will be like in another ten years?”

“I’d like to think it will be better.  It will be good.  I think we’ve learned how to get along better with one another …. without wars.”

“What about the wars that are going on right now?”

Dad looked at me, surprised. “I guess I’m really out of touch.”

We talked for quite a while about human nature, going all the way back to neanderthals.  We talked about advances in technology, sanitation and health.  We talked about the unchanging challenges of communicating with loved ones, referring back to our earlier conversation about listening and talking.  Dad, as always, is an optimist.

“We certainly have more choices now than we did before.”

“Some people do …. some people don’t.  I’m thinking about the whole world.”

A look of confusion crossed Dad’s face.  I tried another path toward his imagination.

If  there is such a thing as reincarnation, of being born back on the earth again, what would you choose to be?

“Do you mean would I want to be a dog?”

“You can choose to be any plant or animal, including a human.”

“I would, of course, be human again.”

“Man or woman?”

” …. man, I guess.”

“What nationality?”

“American”

“What religion would you be.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Pretend we are filling out a form and you have to fill in all the blanks.”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose then, not now.”

“What’s the difference between choosing now and choosing then?”

“I want the freedom to choose and the freedom to change my mind.”

“Okay.  Let’s say that you have to choose the religion of the parents you are born to.  You will be able to change your religion at any point in your life, but you have to choose the religion of your parents.”

“Well, I know about Christianity.  I guess I might want to choose something different.”

“And what might that be?”

“Oh, any one would be okay.”

“Dad, I’m giving you a choice.  We are filling out your order form and we have to put something in the box labeled “Religion”.”

Grumble, grumble, grumble….. “Okay, I guess Hindu.”

“Great.  Okay….. what race would you want to be?”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.  Any one is okay.”

“Dad, just like the religion.  You have to choose.”

“It really doesn’t matter.  They are all fine with me.”

“Dad, you won’t be able to change your race the way you can change your religion.  Again, you have to choose what race your parents will be.  Maybe they will be the same, maybe they will be different.  Right now, you are choosing your future parents and you have to decide.”

Long pause ………..

“Well, if I am honest, I will say White. ………………….. but really, it doesn’t matter, any of the others will be okay…………”

Dad smiled.  “Now, that was a good answer, don’t you think?”  He looked quite proud of himself.  To me, his added comment felt like an attempt to make his real choice a bit more politically correct.  I gave Dad a bit of a hard time about thinking his answer was such an acceptable one.

“The important thing is to be alive and healthy.”

I thought I grew up in a household without prejudice.  In many respects, I still feel that’s true.  I also feel that it’s impossible to grow up without the influence of prejudice in one form or another.

The last question was the most difficult.  The struggle for the answer was illuminating in that it cast a brighter light on the choices and absence of choices I have made in my own life.

“What would your occupation be?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you a choice.”

“I would want to choose it then, not now.”

“What would you base it on then, that you can’t base it on now?”

“I would want to see what I know how to do.  I made choices in my life based on my background.  I was a builder.  I built my own house.  I think I would want to build my house again.”

“You could build your house again, Dad.  But what would you want to do for a living?  To support yourself and your family if you had one?”

“I would want a choice.  If I couldn’t make a choice, I would be looking for a way to change things so that I could make a choice.  I would probably follow the same route I took in this life because I had the freedom to choose.”

“If you based your choice on things you like to do, what might you choose?”

“A builder.  I like to see I’ve done something.  I like to be creative, productive ….. not destructive.  Maybe something that would help improve the world.”

“Would you want to build buildings? bridges? roads?  houses?  Would you want to be an architect? a mason? a carpenter?”

“I would want a choice.”

“I’m giving you that choice, now.  Imagine that you had to sign up for a specific training, now.  The training for a carpenter is quite different from that of a mason.  To be a builder is not specific enough.”

“I would want to be something that would allow me to continue to learn and to grow.”

“Okay.  You want to be creative, productive, improve the world, continue to learn and grow.  Most occupations provide the opportunity for all of those things.  You could be a musician, artist, dancer, chemist, botanist, engineer …….. When Mike was little he would say “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”  I’m asking you not what you want to be when you grow up, but what you want to be the next time around.”

“It would depend on the situation.  I would want to be able to choose.”

“What would it depend on?”

“It would depend on what was available and what was needed.”

By now, my frustration level was getting close to explosive.

“Dad.  You keep saying you want choices, you want the freedom to choose.  Every week when I visit, I give you choices throughout the day and you resist making any decision at all.  I give you a choice of food to eat.  You ask me what I’m eating.  I ask you which path you want to take and you say “whichever way you want to go”.  I ask you what game you want to play and you want me to decide.  You say you want choices, yet you never choose.  What good is being given a choice if you don’t choose.  What good is the freedom to walk safely at night beneath the moon, if you don’t take advantage of that freedom?  I’m giving you a choice of what you will be in your next lifetime and you refuse to make that choice.”

“How can I make that choice if I don’t know what jobs will be available? How can I tell if I’ll be successful?”

“Dad, we are playing a game.  It is a dreaming game … anything we want can come true game.  Next time around, I want thick, curly red hair and an incredible voice to belt out the Blues.  Maybe next time around people will all be deaf, but I still want to sing!  Dad, in this game, I will guarantee that you will be excellent at what you do, top in your field.  You will love what you do and be financially successful, you will be healthy, you will be happy, you will do wonderful things for the world and the world will need you to do exactly what it is you love doing.  Dad….. what do you want to be the next time around.

Without any hesitation at all, Dad replied, perhaps a touch of regret in his voice “an aviator …. a pilot”

I have known his answer for as long as I can remember, yet somewhere along the path of life, the passion was buried, long before the dementia took hold.  I am left wondering when the pursuit of choices replaced making choices.  I think it happened early in my childhood.

Sitting on the bench at Dealaman Pond

Looking back, I have often made choices to have more choices rather than making a choice and acting upon it to completion.  I have put off choosing, always working up to a choice, but avoiding it by taking a path that led to more choices that I could eventually avoid.  Thanks, Dad, for waking me up.

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