GO DAD GO! by Meredith Mileti
For the last several months I’ve been traveling between Pittsburgh and Boca Raton to help nurse my dad as he battles the challenging complications of a chronic illness. Although lately I haven’t been able to devote as much time to my writing as I would like, every day I try to practice what I’ve learned in Mindful Writers Group with whom I practice the Writing Method Meditation. Never before has the Method, which includes Journaling and Meditation, been more important to me. Journaling allows me to create quick emotional sketches that provide insight into what I am feeling. Meditation sharpens my focus, while also centering and calming me. Together the two practices help me understand and accept the next steps in this difficult journey. Being mindfully present with my Dad makes me thankful for my time on this earth, in this body, by allowing me to appreciate more fully the countless small joys that make up each day.
Although I have been a Mindful Writer for nearly two years, nursing my father has allowed me to fully apply and appreciate what I have learned. Unable to breathe on his own, or enjoy a meal since January, to witness him savoring his first ice chip in months with an expression of total concentration and bliss-yes, bliss-is a powerful lesson in mindfulness. To watch him experiencing joy out of a shrinking arsenal of senses has taught me to appreciate every sip, every breath, every pleasure, no matter how modest, and every moment we have together.
Like most men of his culture and generation, Dad would shake his head at the thought of meditation. But I know if he practiced it he would be good at it. His world has shrunk to one room. Yet the space within, the place of his memories and experiences is expansive. When we are together, I find myself focusing on my past with him-pleasant, funny and enjoyable memories: our legendary Saturday marketing trips, our first trip to Florence, teaching me to make calzones in my grandparents’ closet-sized kitchen.
I’m fortunate because throughout my life, my father often talked about his childhood, so I have a ready cache of memories of his early life from which to draw comfort for us both: the egg creams at St. Clair’s in the Bronx, the enormous Sunday lunches at his aunt’s house, and the stretch of beach in Montauk where my father learned to drive at age 11 (taught by his much older brother), the memory of which I used to my advantage years later when I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. (Dad managed to hold out until I was 14!)
The ability to take him back in time of his youth-to happier, easier, more hopeful times-has been a gift for us both. As I tell him the stories of his own childhood and my childhood with him, I can tell by the way his brow unfurrows, his hands unclench, his eyes widen in rapture or surprise that he is there, wiping the froth of the egg cream from his lips, feeling the sand in between his toes as he eases out the clutch with legs long enough to reach the pedals. Go Dad, go!
My father has been one of my greatest teachers. He continues to teach me by example. Wherever the journey leads him and me; no matter how difficult or unsettling the process; there is an ephemeral beauty in getting there.
Mindfulness has helped me observe my Dad attentively. Memories of our times together are a gift that I will always be thankful for.
Postscript: Shortly after the completion of this blog post, Robert Mileti passed away peacefully on May 29, 2013.