Thursday, June 16, 2022

Father's Day Reflections


 From the upcoming "Into the Light: Emerging From the 2020 Pandemic":

 

 Father's Day Reflections 2021

 

Father's Day celebrations had always been difficult for me. My social media news feed is filled with pictures of fathers with adoring posts about how wonderful their fathers were or are. I realize there are many out there who had circumstances similar to mine and may have experienced the same pangs as I did. Yet this year, in the wake of the pandemic, that ache is transformed and transcended. I feel deep abiding joy for those who share in the love of fathers and grandfathers and who can once again be reunited for Father’s Day Celebrations. My heart overflows with compassion for those whose beloved fathers have died and people feel moved to share their photos from years past. And my heart overflows with gratitude as I reflect on those who have been like a father to me.

 

Joe Stetz was my swimming counselor when I attended Badger Day Camp. When I was 10 years old, after two failed camp experiences, my physiatrist who was helping me recover from polio, suggested I go to Badger Day Camp because they focused on swimming and opened their hearts to all abilities. Joe was on track to become a competitor in the 1964 Olympics in the Butterfly but instead he chose to become a physician. {Joe is on the far right in the photo that Badger Camp sent to me several years ago.}

Here is the photo from one of his In Memoriam articles:


There were only 2 other campers competing in the end of Camp Olympics in the butterfly and Joe, with his soulful brown eyes told me that I needed to be the third competitor. I was guaranteed a place on the medal stand. I couldn't believe that he wanted me to compete. I told him all of my fears while not revealing what was happening in my home life but focusing on the effects of paralytic polio. He told me he would work with me one on one to conquer my fears and develop within me the heart of a champion. After I came in third place, long after the other two swimmers finished their races, he lovingly extended a hand to me to help me out of the pool. He walked with me to the medal stand where I received a bronze plaque for 3rd place. He believed in me as a father would and nourished my abilities. I drew from what he taught me after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome when I decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon despite all the odds. His last day of camp hug left a lasting imprint on my heart and soul. There were many times during the pandemic when I drew on its strength.

 

I discovered his Death Notice in the Boston Globe in December of 2004 and did a google search to learn more about the incredible life of the man who helped me navigate the turbulent waters of my childhood.  I was stunned to discover that we worked at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center at the same time when I worked as a social worker on the inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit.

 

I 'just happened' to be standing next to a woman at the starting line of the 2017 Bermuda 10K waiting for Tom to begin his race. As runners often do, we struck up a conversation. She was a nurse who was scoping out the race as part of a medical preparedness team.

 

 "Where are you from?" I asked.

 

"We live not far from Boston," she replied.

 

 "Oh interesting. May I ask where you work?"

 

"I work at St. Elizabeth's."

 

My breath caught. She mentioned she'd been there for many years.


"By any chance did you know Dr. Joe Stetz?" I  inquired.

 

"I sure did!," and she went on to ask me about how I knew him.

 

We shared stories and our eyes filled with tears. She told me that Joe injured his hand changing the oil in his car and was devastated that he could no longer practice surgery. She shared that he was looking forward to retirement having time to read books, enjoy his grandchild and ride horses. His legacy as a father and grandfather lives on in the hearts of all who were blessed to know him.

 

Bernie Siegel became what he affectionately calls my Chosen Dad or CD. He has become a Chosen Dad to many, like myself, who were abused and abandoned and who lost faith in ourselves. Disease manifested in our bodies and Bernie coaches us to reparent ourselves with his wisdom and guidance. We have had this beautiful relationship since the 1980's when a nurse first introduced me to his ground breaking work in the field of mind/body medicine.

 

  

After I sent him my recent book, "Hope is a Garden: Poems and Essays From the 2020 Pandemic" he sent me an email blessing me and asking me if I'd been on his radio show to share it. I've had many interviews through the years but our conversation on Dreamvisions 7 Radio deeply touched my heart and soul. He was so proud of what I had created with the Divine and his love poured forth from his heart to me. 

 

{A photo of Bernie, daughter Ruth Anne and me at one of Bernie's talks at Newton Wellesley Hospital}:

 

During the pandemic we have all learned, "Tomorrow is never promised. Don't wait to tell someone how you feel." I sent Bernie a Father's Day card this year. Much to my surprise, he sent me a card back to me blessing me and letting me know I am now a BD = Bonus Daughter. He is going to be 89 years young in October and I cherish every moment we share together. It was such a powerful healing moment for me this Father's Day Weekend. We are so blessed to have Bernie's books and meditations fill our homes. His meditations are like a lullaby that we listen to as we drift off to sleep. We maintain contact with him through social media and email.

 

In years past, I would quickly scroll past photos and Fathers Day posts just wanting to 'make it through' the day. The pandemic has been a great force for transformation and growth. I am excited to celebrate Father's Day sharing those who have been like a father to me, being blessed with a husband who has been a wonderful father to our twins and to my friends in social media as they share all the feels on Father's Day 2021.

 

This Father's Day, I am excited to celebrate Tom, the father of our twins:




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

and the men who loved me and coached me as a biological father would for his own children.

 
From my heart to yours,
In health and wellness,
Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

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Father's Day Reflections

 From the upcoming "Into the Light: Emerging From the 2020 Pandemic":     Father's Day Reflections 2021 ...