Bittersweet Lies

Today was my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 93. So I promised myself a day off work and that he and I would wander a trail together, heart in heart.

So with all the kitties fed and dawn lighting the early morning skies, I set off to Circle B. My last attempt there had found the trails shut, but my research told me that they opened them a few days ago and they were right!

I got there around 7:30 and there was only one or two cars ahead of me, so we set off for the lake-side trail, without another person in sight. Some of Dad’s ashes are in that great body of water, so I felt that was certainly the place to go this morning.

There were some traces of cloud in the skies but mostly it was clear blue and the temperature was in the mid-sixties or low-seventies and a gentle breeze created a wonderful freshness that made the day near-perfect.

As I reached the lake itself, the skies filled with Osprey, Heron, and Egrets and it was truly a joy to watch them searching for food or taking off to wherever their day’s journey would take them.

So we talked for a while and memories mingled with the realities of the trail and, as often has been the case on such visits, his favorite bird, the red-shouldered hawk said goodbye to us as we left the trail and returned to the car.

I have uploaded a number of the shots at the end of this blog. It’s hard to call out any favorites but the main thing I was happy with was being able to capture so many in flight, even one with his catch as he returned to a tree somewhere. There was even an unusual alligator face-off that thankfully resolved peacefully as the smaller guy retreated and gave way to his larger brother.

By the time I got back here to my desk and started sorting through the images, the happiness of my time with my Dad this morning was slightly bitter-tinged as I remembered the very last time I saw him.

And it created the thought pattern that is really my blog-thought for the day. Lies.

You see, the second last sentence that I ever said to him was a lie and then very much followed by a truth. I said “I will see you again. I love you”.

I knew I never would. And I suspect that he also knew I never would, as I walked from his room at the nursing home, heading back to the US that same day. I remember seeing him in his chair at the window overlooking the parking lot as I reached the car and I waved. I think he saw me. But, I can’t be sure.

There was clearly no malice in my lie. It was meant to provide solace of some sort. And so I am not deliberately beating myself up over it.

Heaven knows there are so many damaging lies that I have told over the years, that there are plenty I could beat myself up with, if I had a mind to.

But yet it bothers me in my quiet moments. And likely always will.

Lies are pretty much a uniquely human trait. We use them everywhere. In personal life, business life, people to people, business to business, people to governments, governments to people, governments to governments. Everywhere.

There used to be a moral and ethics part of education to where we tried to ingrain into our children that their first attempt should be to always tell the truth. Now we train them to win and to win at all costs.

I remember when I was being taught football rules as a child. You could be penalized for what was called unsportsmanlike conduct. If you did something that was inherently unfair in order to gain an advantage, that was seen as illegitimate. Sportsmanship was seen as a positive behavior.

Now that has been replaced with gamesmanship. So now kids are taught to dive and make it look like they have been fouled in order to gain an advantage.

Lying and cheating used to be regarded as a major character flaw that would see a person ostracized and shunned by peers and would generally herald the end of any aspiring career. Now we elevate this kind of person to be dotard-in-chief. (a.k.a. El Presidente, for all of you unfamiliar with that North Korean word for him)

Lies are strategically used between nations in order to gain political and military advantages. This used to be called propaganda but now we call it disinformation.

So when lies permeate all aspects of life around us, what chance do we individuals have to try to steer a straight or honest path?” I didn’t read through your email, I didn’t sleep with your sister, I didn’t take $100 from your wallet.”

These are much better answers to give than admitting that when you read your sister-in-laws email to your wife that she really fancied you, you stole $100 from her pocket-book and took the sister out for dinner and a shag.

OK, I know that is all rather far-fetched but the reality is that lies often present an easy out, when the truth is difficult to admit to someone or even admit to yourself.

Back in that room, saying goodbye to my Dad, the thought of saying that we would never see each other again was not one that I could muster into words. It required a bravery I didn’t have.

And so at times like this when I face my memories, I carry the cowards’ pain … one that can never be soothed.

So, I guess the bottom line in what I am trying to say here is that perhaps we need to assess life’s situations in a more careful manner so that we don’t launch ourselves into a corner from which a lie is the only painless way out.

At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own lives. Mistakes that are made are ours. We own them. Lies don’t heal them … they only momentarily hide them.