Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Kindness Gene

When my Dad was sick, late in the summer of 2010, I tried to spend as much time with him as I could. Certainly my brother Adam carried more of that load than I, flying regularly from Louisiana to BC, staying for extended periods with my Dad. I did what I could, spent what time with him that I had, staying with him when I could. My Dad was failing by then, well along the path to the ultimate end we all face.

In one of my visits, perhaps in mid-July, he said to me "How long do you think I have?" I considered for a moment, calculating what I knew about his multiple cancers, thinking about the numbers, pondering what the doctor had said. Then I answered, "Dad, I think you will see August, but I wouldn't count on September." He went quiet. Then, after a few minutes, he turned to me and said "I wish you hadn't told me that."

I think about that moment a lot, what he must of felt like to have someone he trusted say such a thing to him, to know that those who loved him thought he had so little time left. I recall so strongly the sorrow in his voice, the sadness of his response. Then I think about the way he raised us, the lessons he taught us. He never taught us about kindness; to him life was a harsh reality. In fact some days I think we are missing the kindness gene, my brothers and I. I know that is not true; I know that we can be kind to one another, yet that is not our "go to" place. We deal in the harsh reality, presenting the facts as we see them, often with no softening of the blow. We present our view as fact and usually not a compassionate one.

I wish I had learned more kindness as a young man. Perhaps it would have helped my marriage. Carla certainly knew what kindness was; perhaps that is, in part, why I married her. My Mom knows what kindness is, and it is often with sadness that she looks upon the way I interact with my brothers. We seem to struggle with giving each other the emotional, sensitive support that runs in other families, as if it were some sort of unnatural act. We try, doing what we can for each other, in the practical ways, yet we are truly rather hit and miss on the emotional side. Often we go to the brutal, unadulterated reality first.

Perhaps I am being too unkind to my brothers; kind of makes sense that I would do this. I, too, seem to be missing that kindness gene. I wish I had done better in this regard, especially with my children. I wonder if her innate kindness is what causes my children to prefer their mother's company; I know it had that effect on me. I wish I had been better able to show my friends the kindness they have shown to me, the natural care and easy consideration that marks their interactions with me. It's not to late to try, at least in some respects, and try I do. But I cannot go back and change those lost years when a kind and tender father would have been good for my children.


  1. From my experience of you over almost 30 years, I would rate you as extremely kind, generous, and thoughtful. You underestimate yourself. You have always shown me great kindness, and I frequently witness kindness and generosity extended to your children. Your way may not have been Carla's way, but I know how you constantly struggled to be the best father you could. You put great effort into maintaining a relationship with your dad, which was far from easy for you.
    Don't sell yourself short, Richard.

  2. I found this entry very thought provoking. It led me to reflect upon the shared intra-famiky experiences we brothers share and also upon the missing gene's impact on those around us at work and at home. The whole subject deserves a round table and some Ardbeg.

    1. Come visit sometime. Given the passport hassles, it's unlikely I will get to the US any time soon.

  3. Oh no, Rick, I'm not falling for that one again.