Tuesday, September 02, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Agonizing father says goodbye by apologizing to daughter

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 5/30/2014

Lura J. Taylor’s last conversation with her father was also her first. Or at least the first that mattered. “I’d never had a real conversation with my dad before,” she wrote in her story “Seven Minutes,” published in our book about gratitude for fathers.

She was away on a girls’ weekend, about to have dinner, when her phone rang. When she heard her father’s labored voice, she was sure something was wrong.

Lura J. Taylor’s last conversation with her father was also her first. Or at least the first that mattered. “I’d never had a real conversation with my dad before,” she wrote in her story “Seven Minutes,” published in our book about gratitude for fathers.

She was away on a girls’ weekend, about to have dinner, when her phone rang. When she heard her father’s labored voice, she was sure something was wrong.

“Everything’s fine here,” he said, “but I’d like to talk to you about something important.” Instantly Lura felt like a 15-year-old, and the buzz from a pre-dinner cocktail vanished. She felt like she’d been caught in a moment of “irresponsible pleasure seeking,” she wrote, “instead of being a good, selfless Catholic daughter.”

The only times Lura remembered speaking to her father were on the rare occasions he disciplined her. That’s how he was with all of his children — detached, focused on being a provider and little more.

But now he wanted to talk. “Lura,” he said. “I’m calling all the kids tonight to ask for their forgiveness.”

“You don’t have to apologize for anything,” she said, hurrying to cut him off.

But he was about to undergo a serious heart operation and his mind was made up. He continued as if reading from a script. “I’m asking for every child’s forgiveness for not being the kind of father you needed. I loved you all very much, but it was difficult for me to be close.” He went on apologizing, explaining and expressing regret until he asked, “Lura, do you forgive me?”

She told him that of course she did and, by doing so, she wrote: “I acknowledged a lifetime of disappointment and emotional neglect. Inexplicably, much of my bitter disillusionment began to vanish.”

She next saw him in the ICU, weakened from the heart operation from which he wouldn’t recover. He squeezed her hand faintly and mouthed, “I love you.” Lura wrote, “Thanks to his last attempt, so long overdue, to forge a loving bond, I was able to accept those parting words and return them with sincerity.”

•••

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Linda Saslow’s 12-year-old son Craig said. He was blinking unnaturally, so Linda thought there might be something in his eye. But after washing it out and inspecting it closely, the blinking continued.

“Tics,” a neurologist said a few weeks later and gave Craig a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome. Soon the tics got worse. There were involuntary grunts, throat clearings and head twitches. Then loud yelps began erupting from Craig, and people started staring. “My son was trapped inside a body that had developed a mind of its own,” Linda wrote in her story “Everything Happens for a Reason,” published in our book on positive thinking.

Craig, who had been outgoing and popular, became a recluse, preferring to shut himself in his room instead of enduring stares and jeers. “His only peace came when he fell asleep and his tics finally stopped,” Linda wrote.

One day, Craig made an accidental discovery that would change his life. He and his sister were goofing around in front of a video camera when Craig realized his tics had stopped. It wasn’t a one-time occurrence either. Craig started reciting movie monologues and improvising comedy sketches for the camera or simply in front of his mirror. And all the while he was tic-free.

That’s when a dream took shape: to become an actor. He started commuting into New York City on the weekends to take classes and stopped worrying about his tics as he focused on his new craft. Then, after college, he moved to Los Angeles.

One night he called Linda with news: He’d “booked a job” to appear on an episode of CSI. The character he would play had Tourette syndrome, so now, ironically, Craig would be pretending to have tics on camera. Craig has appeared on TV shows ever since then, and now runs a successful company in New York that draws on his show business experience. Linda had always told him, when he was struggling with the effects of Tourette’s, that everything happens for a reason. And in the end Craig came to believe she had been right.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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