Trust does not and cannot exist in the absence of authenticity. A pseudo-trust may exist temporarily due to circumstances of expediency. In the long run, however, this pseudo-trust is worn down and no amount of bribery, cajoling or rewarding can sustain it.
Robert Preston Caldwell, Jr. 10/27/09.
It was late afternoon near Christmas, 1987, and the last sunlight filtered through the gauzy curtains of Dad’s bedroom. For 2 or 3 weeks he’d been silent, unable to speak, semi-conscious at best, on his way out. He was his authentic, essential self, worn down by months of grave illness.
As had become my habit I was sitting quietly in his room at home, just being there with him, contemplating our life together and preparing for the day, soon, when he’d no longer be with us. When I arose to leave and go home to my family I stopped by the edge of the bed and kissed him on his unshaved cheek. “Dad, you’re a wonderful man,” I said softly to him. Suddenly, he turned his head toward me, opened his eyes, looked straight at me and said, “Son, you’re a better man than I.”
I would not have been more shocked if he’d jumped out of the bed! It seemed impossible that he had spoken at all, especially in a strong voice. Just moments before he’d seemed to have already crossed over to death, but here he was, for that brief moment, looking at me closely and giving me the blessing all men ultimately seek, affirmation from their father. In fact, in a conversation with some friends a few years later I told this story and one of the men looked at me and said, “If you had that kind of relationship with your father, you’re miles ahead of most men.”
This was part of the payoff of the work we did together, both with Dad and my old mentor, Arno. What higher praise could a son receive, or any child for that matter, than to be held in high esteem by a parent? Without it we wander through life seeking this affirmation from others who can never really bestow it on us. We try all types of substitutes without success. The root of mid-life spiritual crisis is, in part, this search for the blessing of being recognized as worthy by those who have meant the most to us.