Watching the funeral services of President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral on yesterday, I great appreciated how his family displayed their love for the man. They respected him, dignitaries and colleagues praised him, and his family let the world know how great a man this father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend, boss and confidante was. And while I greatly appreciated the display of affections, the reverence, and the love shown for the President, it made me sad.
I was sad because I don’t know what that kind of love feels like. I’ve never seen it exhibited in my own life, or for anyone in my family.
I wondered what it’s like to experience such a supreme love. While I have my personal gripes with President H.W. Bush behind Desert Storm, it’s hard to ignore the impact he had on his family, friends, and the nation. He was thoughtful, kind, and extremely considerate.
President H.W. Bush, despite his flaws, appeared to be a good man. He was a man who loved, cherished, cared for and fiercely protected his family.
I wish I knew what that was like. My relationships with my parents, grandparents, and siblings are fragmented at best. Non-existent most times.
Too bad we can’t choose our family.
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents had favorite children and grandchildren, which is always a problem. There is nothing worse than having a dysfunctional family get together where every child and grandchild can rattle off all the lies and slights of our paternal and maternal grandparents. It’s quite painful for most of, no matter how much we pretend it’s not. It’s also the causation of the family not getting together and not reconciling our differences.
The hurt is deep. The memories are long. The past is not the past. The past ever present.
You Can’t Give What You Never Had
My mom’s mother abandoned her and all her siblings to chase career, a good man, and a life without children. She gave half (there were six total) up for adoption, and the other half were raised by my great grandparents during the 50’s and 60's. There were lots of “alleged” abuse and rape by my mom’s older uncles and even her own grandfather, which created a mentally unstable person incapable of giving the kind love children would need during their formative years.
If you didn’t get it, you surely can’t give it. Not well anyway. How do you overcome your mother giving you away for a man, a career, and life she created by forgetting children she made with someone else’s husband.
My dad was the oldest son, and the second oldest child. His mother was a single mom of six, and relied upon my dad to be the breadwinner to help feed his siblings in elementary/middle school. He was his mom’s favorite, but for all the wrong reasons. He was more like a provider than a son. My dad told me a story once where they were so poor he and his older sister stole some food from a grocery store and were sent to a children’s detention home for incorrigible kids back in the 50’s when he was in middle school.
He detailed the horrors of being beaten by White detention officers, not being fed, and worked as if they were on a chain gang, and even kids being beat to death. The experience left him scarred. Today at the age of 70, my dad still has flashbacks of his abuse. When he got out detention, he was expected to return to his job of helping to care for his siblings. He had become the man of the house. His growth and development were stunted I suppose.
My grandmother treated him like a man, when he didn’t know what that mean, except the fun stuff…like sex, drugs, alcohol, cutting school, and neglecting his high school education.
My father never had a childhood. He never received the love, kindness, and support children need to become good citizens, good people, good parents and grandparents. My dad gave us what he knew how to give, which wasn’t much. And while he taught me how to be responsible, how to work hard, and how to care for my children, he didn’t show me what love was. He was a volatile man, and he rubbed many the wrong way, including me.
His kind of love hurt often.
I’m pretty certain I won’t be standing up at either of my parents’ funerals to give long emotional litanies of the goodness, love, and kindness they displayed to their children. They never gave me a reason to. Even as they age, they are as divisive and hateful as they were during their younger days.
Parents never know how deficient they were in their parenting until kids grow up and become adults. They’ll either tell you how deficient you were, or they’ll show you.
Even if showing you sometimes means staying away/no-contact.
What Must That Kind of Love Feel Like?
I wonder what it must be like to love your parents so deeply, and for parents to love their children in the same manner. What must it be like to not only have a wonderful mother, father, grandfather, husband, sister, brother, but for the world to see the love, feel the love, and believe in the family’s love?
The kind of love that seeks the betterment of the individual, and the betterment of mankind. Undying, unwavering, selfless, and committed.
I’ve never had that kind of love, and now that I’m older it impacts me greatly. I wish I could have experienced it earlier in my life. The older we get, the harder it is to come by.
It seems the supreme kind of love has always been fleeting for me. From birth until recently, love seems to have been conditional. Sometimes spoken, but often not. Conditions like:
If you’re a good child…
If you give good sex…
If you’re the right size…
If you do good deeds…
If you support me first…
If you wait until I get my life together…
If you have the good job…
If you please me…
There is always an “if” associated with conditional love…
I understand no one can be taught to be good, decent, caring, kind, considerate, and loving, it simply comes naturally. But I wonder why many of us never get the chance to experience such goodness in our lives?
Why are some people so fortunate and others like me are placed in dysfunctional families, destined to repeat the cycles of coldness, misery, sadness, despair and at times loneliness?
I don’t know, but I hope to experience a love supreme before I leave this earth. I want to wake up and know I’m loved. I want to go about my day everyday feeling loved, and I want to be on my deathbed knowing I gave and experienced real, unconditional love.
I’m thankful the Bush family shared the love their family has for one another with the world. Men like George H.W. Bush are a dying breed. Maybe in death, he can help us learn to love one another a little better.
Because at the end of the day when we die, it doesn’t matter what our titles were, how much money we made, or our earthly accolades. When we die, we are going to be remembered for the lives we impacted, the people we helped, how we treated people big and small, how we gave love, and what we did with the love we received.
We have many opportunities in life to get love right.
This life is a dress rehearsal for death, so make it count. How will you be remembered at your funeral? I want to be loved and remembered like President George H.W. Bush, and I’m going to do better about investing my love in vessels that last.
I want to die knowing what a supreme love feels like. The highest-quality kind. An ultimate kind of love.
I’m not dead yet, so there’s still time find it so that I can reciprocate it.
Marley K., 2018