It certainly is different,” my brother exclaimed! A spiffy red furnace replaced the old asbestos-covered ‘Snowman. For eighty years this indomitable Snowman had ruled the nether region of our family home, where I now live. Over dinner my brother noticed I had also replaced the old stove. Half joking and buoyed by good wine, I commented that replacing the stove was like getting rid of mother and the furnace, dad.
My parents were warm, intelligent, funny people with excellent values—nonetheless they were challenging parents.
My father, a patriarch with a scientific bent, could not easily allow others’ emotions or non-physical needs.
“Dad, I have a question.”
“The answer is no, now what is your question?”
My mother, not unexpectedly, became increasingly emotional over time. Her stereotypically feminine side was constantly at war with her equally strong independent side. A teller of often inconvenient truths, she tended to overstep when enraged. Our house was too often a battleground between my mother and father, my mother and my mother, and my mother and everyone else.
A few days later, I went to the family gravesite. I had been several times before and found it a vaguely peaceful experience. When I sat down on the small bench, my parents’ presences immediately filled my being. Like a rich trio sonata, our joining was harmonious, complex, and dynamic. I was a clarinet, my father an oboe, and my mother a viola; we played with warmth and grace together up and down my chest. If perchance we choose our parents, I understand why I chose mine. I also understand the rightness of their choice of each other.
Replacing those weighty relics of my parent’s material existence freed me to experience their spirits more deeply. Like their material doppelgangers, each had a different kind of fire. My father’s warmed and sustained life. It forged the truth of the elements—of a practical kind. My mother’s fire was of the psyche; it transformed the world so it could be taken inside. Its truth was of essences and their complex blend—seeing through the surface of things to their intangible core.
I certainly would change many things, if I could do it again with executive control. Yet I see that I have received from each a priceless gift. From my father, I have inherited a scientific mind that strives for clarity; from my mother, an unusual receptivity and an interest in the powerful reality of intangible experience.
After a number of years as a scientist, I began studying intuition. My work bridges cutting edge science of the mind with subtle aspects of experience. Some find it too experiential, and others object to the science.
I believe these often warring sources of fire must learn to understand each other’s truths. I am glad to be one of the crucibles in which this alchemical marriage is now occurring. The wonderful heat of this joining is such that, even with the external friction, there are few other places I’d rather be.
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