So...my grandpa died on July 26. He was 85 years old.
To a certain extent, this was expected as his health was in decline.
The last time we spoke a month prior (at my cousin's wedding), he told me to "take care of [my] father" -- which I viewed as him issuing his final directive for how he wanted us to love each other. I've taken this directive to heart.
As I stood by his open casket at the last of the three wakes (as it had taken that long to summoned forth what I wanted to say to him that would put a bow on a lifetime of memories) I said an emphatic "Thank you. *sniff* Thank you. *sniff* Thank you. *sob*" As the patriarch of my family, and as my last living grandparent, I just wanted to thank him for giving me my family, the greatest wealth I have in this world. I also told him that as the champion of my love life (it was a frequent topic of our conversation) that I'd rely on him to send Mr. Right my way.
In the two weeks since my grandpa's death, the directive of "take care of your father" has caused me great anxiety and stress. Having my mother die when I was young was traumatic in its own right, but one of the lasting results was the fear of my father dying prematurely because of his lifestyle (stressful job, bad diet, no exercise, etc.).
One thing you've all heard me say time and time again is that you can't force someone to care about themselves. I know this first hand -- with myself and with others. People have to come to the Epiphany in their own time and on their own terms. You can be there to support and inform them, but the impetus has to begin within the person.
The weight of the stress/anxiety about my dad's health and well-being was taking its toll on me. It dragged down my spirits, caused a bit of nausea, and people could see it. All of this sadness was not a good prelude to my birthday. My friends and coworkers could see that I was troubled. Buddhists believe that suffering is caused by our desire to control (situations, outcomes, people). Was I trying to control my father? Ultimately no. So then what?
On Tuesday, my father called me to wish me a happy birthday on the eve of my 31st birthday. I took the call as a sign that it was time to share with him what it was that I truly wanted for my birthday: I wanted my dad to live a long and healthy life, and I didn't want to have to worry about him.
Turns out it had been on his mind too.
I try not to be expressly didactic in my blog, rather trying to model what I think is healthy outlook on life by relaying anecdotes about my own life. But in this case, I'm really going to spell it out: tell the people you love that you love them and want them to love themselves. Asking someone to change for our own benefit is shallow and wrong, but telling someone that you want them to look at themselves with the love you have for them is courageous and generous of heart.
I want my dad to live a long life. I want him to do cartwheels down the aisle when I get married. I want him to see his grandkids grow up. I said nothing about how many calories he should eat, or the kind of exercise he should be doing. I tried not to harp about the negative behaviors. My focus was on relaying the fact that I value our relationship and would hate to see that relationship come to a premature end because of how he treats his own body.
So with that one conversation, the gloomy clouds that had been hovering above me dissipated. While I was still very hush hush about my birthday because I'm still in a bit of aftershock/mourning, I know that my birthday wish is now out there in the universe.