“Working with obstacles is life’s journey. The warrior is always coming up against dragons. Of course the warrior gets scared, particularly before the battle. But with a shaky, tender heart the warrior realizes that he or she is just about to step into the unknown, and then goes forth to meet the dragon.”

It’s a passage from renowned Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön’s book titled: The Wisdom of No Escape, where she so elegantly draws upon and shares many of her own life experiences, in addition to other more traditional Eastern teachings, that truly seem to be universal in their application. It’s one of several places that I typically turn when confronted with my own “dragons,” real or imagined.

What prompted me to revisit Chödrön’s work was several friends who had recently asked if I was sure that returning to the upstate farmhouse rental where I had cared for my aging father last summer was the right move so soon after he passed. It was definitely something that I had given thought to before securing the space once again. But I felt that the positives would far outweigh the negatives.

Clearly, there’s a duality that exists when it comes to memories. They can, of course, be connections to a time and place that once brought great joy to us and in many cases, anyone else that participated in the experience – a shared event that one hopes to always cherish. Conversely, they may also involve occasions when trauma, suffering and pain was endured, so we may have chosen to table or put aside those memories in an effort to “move on” in some fashion.

By all means, the five months of experiences my father and I shared living under the same roof last year definitely ran the spectrum from the highest of highs to lowest of lows – oftentimes within days of one another. 

As I’m sure many caregivers of loved ones with Parkinson’s and dementia will attest, these can certainly be some challenging waters to negotiate, despite our best efforts. The sheer unpredictability of his mental and physical state made for some emotionally charged exchanges that I’d never witnessed in him prior. If I hadn’t received the support from family and friends that I did, the task of caring for him would have seemed completely insurmountable. 

This summer, of course, will be quite different than last. It kicks off with the wedding of the eldest daughter of Amish family from whom I will be renting, a traditional celebration that will take place in their recently-constructed barn on the property. 

I feel incredibly honored to be invited to such an event, and have no doubt that it will indeed be a memorable cultural experience. My father would love to have been witness to such a joyous festivity, as he often commented about the family’s generosity and their willingness to make his final months as comfortable as possible.

I’m also looking forward to assisting my youngest brother with maintaining his oversized garden, from which he sells both fruits and vegetables to the general public, in addition to his “regulars” who pick up their weekly bounty as part of a Community Supported Agriculture program or CSA. Not surprising, my other brother, who lives only a mile or two from the farmhouse where I’ll be staying, has a few summer projects lined up on his property, one of which is giving his adorable late 1800s cottage a long overdue makeover, both inside and out.

Most of all, I anticipate spending some quality time catching up with each of my three nieces and nephew (one of which has a beautiful 10-month-old boy), who all live in the surrounding area. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of “Papa” stories shared amongst us while sitting around the fire pit, sipping our libations. 

Of course the dragons are more than welcome to join us, but I have a feeling that they might get a bit restless and wander off to find some other potential hotspot. Or as Chödrön would say: “The warrior realizes that the dragon is nothing but unfinished business presenting itself, and that it’s fear that really needs to be worked with.”

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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