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Fifty Years after his Death: Opening my Heart to Dad’s Love

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Date : October 29, 2016


Dedicated to my Loving Sister Marion Livingstone


For almost fifty years I believed that my father who died on November 9, 1966 didn’t love or approve of me.  I thought at best he was indifferent towards my presence, but now I’m ready to face the reality that my view point was highly distorted.


My sister Marion, who is two years younger than me (I am 65 and she is 63), read my previous blog Healing from the Approval that never came.  She told me that her perception of my father was much different than mine.  At this point in my life I am open to hearing what she has to say.  This wasn’t true in the recent past where I wouldn’t be able to tolerate an alternative viewpoint of who my father was.


I believed that my father didn’t believe that I was intelligent, a poor athlete and was weak on character development.  My sister told me that she believed that I was a leader and creative as a child.  She said my parents valued these qualities.   I believe her, but I don’t really remember feeling very leader like as a teenager.  I also don’t have memories of being creative.  She said my father would say good things about me.  He wrote poems to my mother every April.  He had a unique sense of humor like his son. He was thoughtful and family meant everything to him.  It dawns on me that I can feel his words as I write them down below.  His spirit is running through me and is always present.  I realize that my written dedications to my wife Gail aren’t so different that his writings to my mom.  He obviously loved my mother and from his words, really cherished my sister and me.


The last poem he wrote was on April 8, 1966:

“Like a bunny you hoped real quick

From FTS(Franklin Township) to South Brunswick(NJ)

Hillcrest’s  loss Cambridge’s gain

Kendal Park’s benefit by Barbara’s(my mother who was an elementary school teacher)brain


Basketball and football fame

Added now to Robbie’s(me) name

Marion’s(my sister) getting orthodontics

Dad got a job at Extrundonics(small machine factory in New Brunswick, NJ)


Some wives pitch woo, others tents,

But for all purposes and intents,

You’re versatile in the ways of life,

And make the very ‘bestest’ wife.

Happy Birthday”


I have written blogs and books that have spelled out my struggle to deal with my dad’s death and the aftermath. Why did I believe that my father didn’t love or approve of me?  The answer to that resides in the part of the brain called the amygdala.  The amygdala is geared toward remembering and focusing on the negative for survival purposes.  If one has multiple traumas, the amygdala will really get revved up and focus on strongly remembering the negative memories and discarding the positive in an effort to help you survive.  Focusing on the positive memories is experienced as letting your guard down and vulnerable to being physically or emotionally hurt.


When I was fifteen years old, my father died suddenly, my mother was not able to help me with my grief because she was dealing with hers, the grave diggers were still shoveling out the grave at the funeral, the rabbi at the funeral was all insulted because my father(who he didn’t know) didn’t have a Jewish name, my sister and I were not allowed to see my dad in ICU which really interfered with my grief process, my guidance counselor told me I was too dumb to go to college, my girlfriend broke up with my shortly after my dad died.  I was too numb to cry.  I was trying to find out who I was and was ashamed that I couldn’t cry.


Perhaps the most intense memory was when I punched my dad in the stomach and he walked away.  He never talked to me again. When he turned towards me, it was like I was invisible to him.  His eyes were glazed over and together we were zombies.


I learned later that he was having a series of small strokes called TIA’s.  He lost his job at the factory because he no longer was capable of doing the work.  Nobody talked about what was going on and no one tried to save my dad.




My sister reminded me about the black and white photos she shared with me.  They were taken in the 1950’s and 60’s.   I remember looking at them a couple of years ago and intellectually getting that he loved me, but that was my head and not my heart.  I want to feel the love and I believe that will happen because for the first time in my life I am open to that possibility.


I look at the photo of my dad, my sister and me and I want to sing a new song by Alejandro Escovedo called Heartbeat Smile.


I think of my dad and I sing along, “I miss my friend with the heartbeat smile”

Please share your experiences here   Thanks!!!

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Letting Go of Grief
Move Your Body to Rock and Soul

Letting go of Grief: Move Your Body to Rock and Soul teaches you how to work through your losses. These losses could be the death of a loved one, the end of an important relationship or other trauma. Grief is an evolving process and you will learn what the term acceptance means. It means that you will always have the option of honoring your loss, but you don’t have to be continually consumed by it. In this book, you will learn to find a landing place in your heart for grief. You will learn to embrace the pain instead of being afraid of facing it.

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