Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Father's Day: An Experience of Reconciliation and Love

Few of the stories I share about my father in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir are flattering. Physically and emotionally absent in my early childhood and dead before my 14th birthday, Sydney Gerson was not the kind of parental figure one thinks of as, well, much of a parental figure. 

On top of that, it turns out that he was probably not my natural father, something I learned long after all the principles in that drama -- him, my mother and my natural father -- had passed away. 

And yet I carry his name, and of the three fathers I have experienced in my life, he is the only one I ever think of as "Daddy." 

So today, on what would have been his 101st birthday, I share this story, a story of love and reconciliation, excerpted from an Acts of Surrender chapter titled "Channel Surfing." It takes place in 1997, while I was on a three-month full-time road odyssey...

"Inspired by my experience at Circling Hawks in Burke's Falls, one of the first things I now always did when arriving in a new town was to flip through the local Yellow Pages in search of health food stores, bookstores, and metaphysical shops and services. It proved an often-successful way for me to connect with like-spirited people on this open-ended road trip. That's how I had found Deep Lake Rocks in Bemidji, the bookstore in Dickinson and Missoula's EarthSpirit Books, where I had been directed to Reiki master Vish. The Yellow Pages was also how I found downtown Boise’s metaphysical emporium, which I drove out to the following morning on what I thought was my way out of town.

"When I walked into the bright, spacious store, a voice greeted me from on high -- not the disembodied spirit I had channeled the previous night during my first-ever channeling experience, but Bodie Dugger, a slim young man with tousled blond hair and a face in that unclassifiable place between chiseled and cherubic. He was perched atop a tall stepladder rearranging merchandise.

"'Where are you from?' he asked a few preliminaries later.

"'Toronto,' I replied.

"He laughed. 'No. What planet or star system? I'm from Arcturus.'

"Not a single customer wandered in during the hour-plus of our conversation, freeing us to chat nonstop about all things metaphysical. By the time I left, I knew I would stay the week so I could attend Bodie's full-moon gathering in seven days

"That afternoon, my cocker spaniel and I checked into the Shilo Inn, with a room right on the Boise River. That evening, I changed into my bathing suit and settled into the white-tiled steam room that's a fixture in many of the chain’s properties. I had no plans, other than to shut my eyes and relax into the steam. But after a few minutes, I felt another presence in the room. I opened my eyes and peered through the clouds of steam. I saw no one.


"No answer.

"I closed my eyes again. Immediately, I sensed a white-robed man staring at me from across the room. He was tall, dark-haired, with a trim beard and mustache and a muscular build. A gold coronet rested on his head.

"'Who are you?' I asked silently.

"'My name is Arctur,' I sensed rather than heard.

"Right, I thought dismissively. My mind is still focused on Bodie and his Arcturian stories. It’s playing tricks on me.

"'This is no trick. I am Arctur,' he repeated.

"Once again, despite myself, I was channeling. I don’t know how long we conversed. Time had no meaning among the mystical swirls of steam.

'If Bodie's from Arcturus,' I challenged, 'where am I from?"

"Not that it matters,' he replied, “'but you're from Sirius....and stop being so serious.'

"I was too serious, too much of the time.

"'There is someone here who wants to speak with you,' Arctur said a few moments later.

"I waited.

"'Because this is so close to the anniversary of your father's death...' Suddenly I sensed my father's presence, Sydney's presence. My heart started to race.

"I'm sorry I couldn’t be the father you wanted me to be,' my father said. 'I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in all the ways you deserved.'

"I began to sob.

"'But I loved you and I still love you,' he continued. 'And I'm so proud of what you're doing and what you're becoming. I couldn't be a role model for you, but you're now a role model for me. I'm watching you. I'm with you. I'm learning from you. Thank you.'

"Moments later, I sensed that Sydney and Arctur had left. I was alone, still crying. I opened my eyes. The steam room was empty. I wiped my face, collected myself and returned to my room.

"How close to the anniversary is it? I fired up my laptop and opened my file of significant dates.

"As close as it could be. My father had died 29 years earlier -- on that day."

• An excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir (c) 2012 Mark David Gerson

Read more about my three fathers, and much more, in Acts of Surrender, available right now from the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBook stores and readable on your e-reader, tablet, computer and smartphone

• Photos (long before I was born) -- Top: My parents, probably around 1940 or 1941. Bottom: A family gathering in the later 1940s. 

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