I turned into my parents’ driveway in Maryland and parked the car.
Before I could even step out and close the door, Mom flew out of the backyard, gesturing frantically.

“Your father had a breakdown,” she blurted. “Your brother took him to the hospital. He’s on the sixth floor. Go. Go. You need to go to him right now.”

“Wait a second, Mom,” I gently asserted. “What happened? What hospital?”
“He didn’t eat anything, like he’s supposed to. He started flailing himself around, threatening to kill himself. Your brother had to hold him down. Go.”

“Okay, Mom.” I squeezed her tight. “We’ll take care of him.”

I remembered earlier that morning how Dad disappeared from the kitchen. I sought him out to say goodbye and found him curled up in a fetal position on his bed.
“Hey, man,” I razzed. “Taking a little nappy?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “I’ll be alright.”

“Strange answer,” I thought to myself as I gave him a kiss and left.

I found Dad on the sixth floor of the Medical Center, sitting in the corner with my brother, Laird. His seeing eye dog lay curled at his feet.
“Hey guys,” I smiled. “What’s the word?”
“I guess I got kinda’ depressed,” Dad confessed. “I forgot to put food in my system. I’m alright now.”

I looked over at Laird, who shook his head—a telling communication. I’d hear the details later.
“My blood sugar must have really dropped,” Dad added.
“Gotta’ eat,” I empathized.

Diabetes, selling a house, leaving the state of his ancestors after 69 years to move to Florida, learning to cope with blindness—any one of these might trigger a meltdown.
I knew my Dad would resist more than a trifling of professional help.
Too much shame.

Wait a second.
Where did the judgment start?
Who decreed our superhuman nature?
What happened to compassion, for others and ourselves, the soulful cry that recognizes our humanity, faults and shortcomings included, weaknesses acknowledged, differences celebrated?

Does another person’s struggle bring us down so much that we teach and preach denial as an alternative?
“Buck up. Tighten your chinstrap. Get a grip.”
A grip on what?

We stuff emotions, squelch our feelings and put up false fronts of courage for the sake of appearances.
We deny our right to sit with our own suffering and reflect, grieve or cut ourselves any slack.
Like a dormant volcano, our insides churn with prejudice and bias, slanted views painted by others, seldom questioned or examined.
Rampant dis-ease.

When the volcano blows, the lava takes the form of cancer, heart attacks, depression and other illness.
What if we poked a few holes in that mountain of pride before it swelled to explosion?
What if we forgave and accepted, praised and lauded our crazy diversity?
Could we release the steam before it gushes and burns?

Try today, at least once to pick a moment and notice someone else’s struggle—without mental commentary or your idea of a fix.
Reach out without expectation.
Then do the same exercise on yourself.
You, too, deserve untainted appreciation.
Give yourself a break.

Thanks, Dad, for showing us your human side.
It helps us love you even more.

That’s A View From The Ridge…

Ridgely Goldsborough