A BRAND NEW TREE
I am 62 years old. For many years, decades even, I have been estranged from my parents. My mother and father are not bad people. They aren’t criminals; they aren’t unethical people. They have friends and families of their own. Their lives have gone on after my life took its direction away from theirs. I don’t know if they are happy, but I suspect they are as happy as I have managed to become.
When I consider the situation, the path I have followed feels not to be a very admirable one. Isn’t the story supposed to be that as a child comes into maturity and forges a life of his own he comes to see his parents’ lives in a different light? He comes to appreciate how difficult it is to find a place in the world and discovers a new respect for what his parents have managed to accomplish. Based on their long experience the parents become a resource of wisdom and good counsel.
That is the nice story. That is the story, I hope, which describes the relationship my own 29-year-old daughter has built with her parents. I can’t think of anything that brings me more pleasure than to participate in the shared life of our family. The old fear I had that we would repeat my own broken drama proved to be groundless.
For years I felt troubled about the sundered relationship between my parents and me. Is it a flaw in my own character that jump-started the breakdown and kept it lurching and tumbling downhill? Am I too judgmental, too insecure in my own self to allow my forebears an expression of their own lives which differs from my own without rejecting their ways and insisting that we keep well apart? It isn’t a question easily answered.
They say that if a fool persists in his folly he will become wise. I sure have done that – persist, I mean. As have many in modern America I’ve sought spiritual depth by walking on non-traditional pathways. I found an occupation as a landscape gardener and practical arborist. A first-born Jewish son is not expected to make his living digging holes or climbing trees! Yet, I have found great satisfaction in facing a young oak just so when planting it or climbing one 100 years my senior to make nice with a pruning saw. I was not educated to do these things. There was no expectation that I would do these things. There was certainly no reward promised if I would do these things. Yet, there it is. What I needed to do in this life came as much of a surprise to me as it might have done to any member of my long-abandoned family.
Human life is a difficult business any way you slice it. But I believe that one can find one’s place, one can satisfy one’s soul, one can negotiate the foggy maze of opportunity by the exercise of courage and stubbornness, and that if one is pulled from the ground leaving roots in old soil one can grow a new set of roots for himself. One can start his own family tree from the ground up.
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