You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it:
Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Who doesn’t love To Kill a Mockingbird? Both the novel and the movie. I can remember the first time I read it, and it is still a favourite movie. The first time I re-read the book it was even better, as I could picture the characters – Gregory Peck was the perfect Atticus Finch.
My father was and is not a lawyer, but he is very much like Atticus Finch. He has strong values to which he is faithful, has been and continues to be a good father, was and still is a leader in his community. He is someone to whom others looked up, and always looked for, and saw, the best in others. He and my mother lived a life of service to others, and the worst punishment as a child was to be told by my father that he was disappointed.
He is still, at 94, a man to admire. I wrote a post recently titled Just Keep Swimming, my code for the need to keep going when times are tough. Little did I know how important the words were.
I had a bad day last Sunday. I wasn’t well, was tired, and something happened that made me upset, for no rational reason. Dad needed something at the shops, and I had been to the shops that morning, taken him to church, was taking him somewhere else that afternoon, and I was generally a bit ‘over it’ that day. I cried. Ugly cried. I railed against the injustice of it all; the exhaustion. I guess I needed a cry – salty tears are a good cure for some ills – as I felt better not long after. A phone call with my sister of course helped. Figuratively speaking I gave myself an uppercut and decided to get on with it.
I realised that regardless of how difficult the situation was for me ( and let’s face it, it was only a momentary feeling, and one that I had had before, and knew it would pass), it must be so much harder for Dad – losing his independence, coping with so much change in a short space of time, facing the fact of the frailties of old age, and dealing with a bossy daughter who seemed hell-bent on changing his routines.
That realisation made me think of Atticus Finch and his advice to his children – to look at things from another’s point of view to understand what they are going through. This had a calming influence on me – perhaps it was not just the wise words, but the fact that I imagined Gregory Peck speaking them.
Change is difficult – coupled with old age it must be frightening. And if Dad can do his best in those circumstances, then so can I.
I do hope Scout and Jem took care of Atticus in his old age. I like to think they did.