Focusing On Their Father After A Passing Of A Friend
The initial session found me meeting with a brother, Miguel Jr., and sister Alisa.
Their focus was their dad. He’d reportedly received recent news about the passing of a friend in Puerto Rico. In response to the news, their dad had stopped much of his post-retirement daily routine. They kept contact with their mother. Dad wouldn’t receive visitors or visit family or friends. They described dad as soft spoken and proud. Professionally, he moved up the ranks of many positions at the factory until he made plant manager. He was recognized at a banquet.
He was characterized as a man whose achievements were maintained with humility. I asked Miguel Jr., and Alisa to bring their dad to the next session. I silently kept an open mind. He may continue to experience what might be a grief reaction and continue to be with himself. All I could count on was the rest of the story. I waited for the next session.
Who would be here? If the dad came, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. The hour for the appointment came and Jr, with Alisa, arrived. Accompanying them was an older woman. I stood to make their acquaintance. Glad to meet you again.
“Thank you, we’d like to introduce you to our mom, Mona.”
We shook hands. May I begin today’s session by asking what you shared with your mother. Miguel Jr. spoke.
“We are not a family of secrets. We don’t keep important matters regarding family to ourselves. The evening following our first meeting with you, we met our mother for coffee at a cafe. We sat at a private table. We each took turns telling her of our meeting with you. She listened and mother cried. We are family. We are greatly concerned for our dad. He continues to sit around and be inactive. Mother decided to take up this invitation. She didn’t even share anything with our dad.”
If I may call you Mona, thank you for joining your adult children. All we say in this office is private and confidential. Have you ever had any counseling?
“No, I’ve never had any counseling. Thank you for seeing my children. They are important to me. Like you, they told me about their concern for their dad. I was not surprised. We’ve always been a close knit family. I didn’t mean to cry at the cafe. I see my husband every day. We are all concerned. I know him very well. When he’s quiet, I don’t bother him. I’m used to his quiet times. In the past, the time is short-lived. He’s a deep thinker and rarely does he make decisions until he thinks things through. Then he and I will discuss his position and then he hears mine. We are pretty independent. We’ve learned how to come to fair and honest decisions. No matter what’s going on, Miguel and I talk things out. But, this is brand new. When I ask him what’s going on in his mind, he doesn’t answer. The other day, he rolled over in bed and told me that he had much to think about and he’d share it with me in due time. I really wanted him to say more. I know that he’ll share with me when he is ready. Pressuring him would be a waste.”
I apologize for interrupting. Do you have any idea what Miguel is experiencing? Did you know the friend who passed?
“I didn’t ever meet the friend. Miguel never really spoke about him. This is all new for me. He’s feeling something for certain; this I know. My husband feels emotions deeply. No way can I continue to ask him until he’s ready to share. Only then will we talk.”
Would it be accurate then for me to say that whoever this friend is to Miguel, he has a deep interest?
“I think that’s true. Some people might call my dad stubborn. He has always given us an opportunity to express our feelings without any consequence. I mean, if we ever did wrong and/or messed up, he and mother would let us know. Yet, we could be comforted in expressing our feelings. Let me give you an example. One time I came home with a bad report card. My parents sat us down at the dinner table to discuss my grades. I felt scared like they were going to get mad and punish me severely. Mom, do you remember this? (Mona nods her head.) Dad was silent for what seemed to be forever. He held onto my report card. He kept looking me in the eye. I tried to turn away but he wouldn’t let me do that. He didn’t speak. Just his attention made me upset. I began to cry. I felt so ashamed. Dad still hadn’t said a word. Then I told them that I hadn’t studied much. I had a bad attitude that made me not care about school. I attended classes but I didn’t do the work. I felt like a failure. I remember sobbing and telling them that I’d study and work hard. We must have been at the table for a half-hour. Dad continued to look directly at me. Then, he got up from his chair. Oh my God, I didn’t know what he might say or do. Then suddenly he pulled me up gently from my chair and gave me a hug. Quietly, he spoke in my ear. He said ‘I love you Junior and I know you’ll do what you said you’d do.’ Then mom, you got up and the three of us did a group hug. We all cried and dad held me for minutes before he let me go. I told them I loved them, too. I went to my room and started to study. My grades improved and nothing further was said. When my final report card came in, dad hugged me and said that he knew I’d do well.”
What a story. Maybe you can persuade your dad, your husband, to come next time. Maybe this place can provide trust and freedom for your dad to share. OK?
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein holds a masterís degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at 415 E. Sixth St., Jamestown, and can be reached at 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email email@example.com.