In the Time of Instant Everything: I Miss My Father

Dear World,

A friend of mine from high school named Judy died today. She was 60 years old. I just feel very sad…and kind of confused. Judy was not the first person I know to pass away and I was by no means a very close or intimate friend of hers, but I got to see her at a 40th high school reunion and she was as sweet and kind hearted as I remembered her back in 1971.  It’s not easy to process something as final and as inevitable as a death. There is still a kind of mental denial and social taboo about it like, “wait, that’s impossible..she’s my age” and “no, that’s not possible, she’s my Facebook friend and I saw she just had her 60th birthday!” I feel tears inside my eyes but my head is having trouble grasping this kind of raw emotion and new reality. Judy Levey Stein passed away. I almost feel like I have to slow down, repeat it and let my mind catch up to my feelings.

In this the time of instant everything as in instant coffee, instant fast food, instant matzoh ball soup, and instant communication, it’s important to realize that not only are there many good things to come from “slow”…like slow cooking, slow roasting, and Bubbe’s crock pot brisket, but also alot of deeper meaning and significance that comes from slowly (or suddenly) emerging and often painful processes, liking losing a friend, losing a job, getting a divorce or having a baby.

Sure, I know as a guy that’s easy for me to say about pregnancy and giving birth, but still, wasn’t it worth it in the end? Actually another friend from high school’s son and daughter in law just had a baby, making my fun-crazy friend Bennett a first time Grandpa. Life and death. Quite a concept.  More to the point and less to the labor pains, we are so used to demonizing our raw emotions and deadening our anxiety and pain with drugs, drink, and addictive cultural distractions, ie. Honey Boo Boo, the internet, Facebook, videogames, etc. , that when we do feel bad, anxious, frightened, nervous, sad, “down” or just not right, many of us are conditioned to reach for another Klonopin, the Prozac, the Xanax, the Welbutrin, or the WebMD app on our iPhone for more symptom information…. rather than slowing down and asking ourselves what our inner self is trying to communicate.  In this case I’m just sad for Judy and her family and very happy for Bennett, Justin and his family. That doesnt make me crazy or bipolar, just full of different kinds of feelings.

None of us is completely crazy or stupid (well some are pretty damn close…sorry). We know we are consciously or unconsciously engaged over our lifetime (and maybe more) in an ongoing process of body-mind integration, just like our crazy dreams are trying to sort out what is important from what is mental “garbage” and emotional detritus (hint: do not leave the televangelist cable channel on when you fall asleep).
Our bodies and brains are constantly trying to help “process” our childhood traumas, our teenage angst, our adult successes and miserable Titanic-sized failures and painful losses. In a way it’s like a big psycho-spiritual jig-saw puzzle and internal “Hoarders” episode. It’s not something you can sort out in one or two sittings, a Primal scream , three therapy sessions or even a daily bus/train ride to work while feverishly trying to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle, something I personally have never ever finished. It’s a slow process and we have to allow it to occur.

So, our bodies, minds and lives in general give us various subtle (or not so subtle) “hints”, clues, and throw us  symbols, symptoms, poetic metaphors, and synchronistic coincidences. Feeling anxious, tense, having a “bad” dream, having a rumbly in the tumbly stomach ache (in absence of the flu, a definitive medical problem or a uber-spicy Indian meal the night before) or even a vague sad-ish feeling can mean that “something” important wants to be recognized and processed. For the more neurotic or imaginative among us, let me say that doesnt ALWAYS mean we have been sexually abused in childhood and we need to acknowledge it and/or go shoot the person on the courtroom steps like in Law and Order SVU to “resolve it”. Certainly child abuse and neglect happen alot and we need to remember and embrace the truth about such traumas in our early lives as well as other repressed feelings including our lingering guilt regarding our own worst NOT SEEN ON TV moments as spouses and well-meaning but overwhelmed parents. It sucks to realize and admit to having been your own most screwed up parent to your own kid(s). I really hate when that happened/happens.
Sometimes, however, it just means that you are sad about the death of a high school friend, happy for another, and, in my case also have come to realize I miss someone I never fully acknowledged as being all that important, mostly because I was only 2 years old when he died and he disappeared like the proverbial ghost in the night. That missing part, like in Shel Silverstein’s book, The Missing Piece, has rolled around in my subconscious for nearly 57 years. The wheel (of life) still goes round but when I listen closely I can hear it go “bumpity bump” when it touches that hidden “sore” spot and the symbolic as well as real void within me.


I dont think I need to “up” my Lexapro or start on a new mood stabilizer. Instead I want to simply allow myself to be happy for Bennett and his family, sad about Judy, thankful for life and good health, and honor all my seemingly disparate feelings. I also want to do one or two things to express and commemorate the loss of two very sweet and decent human beings, like lighting a candle, saying a prayer (Mourners Kaddish) and taking out the few dusty Polaroid pictures I have of my biological father from the bottom of my overcrowded sock drawer. I miss my father, Lawrence Hiken. I miss my ex-wife Rona Hertz Mazer. Judy, you were a good person and had a wonderful and genuine smile. Bennett, Tammy, Justin, and Crissy, a sacred blessing, a sip of wine, and as the Fiddler on the Roof shouted to the stars and heavens above when he wasn’t too busy kvetching,

” L’Chaim, To Life!”

Love, Cliff


About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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