We tend to idolize the dead. It’s so easy to appreciate people when we don’t live with their very human aspects anymore. I can see people with so much more humor and grace when I’m not rubbing up against them, it seems. I think about this all the time when I picture how my father-in-law Miles used to pick arguments with me just because he loved to banter about anything he knew we didn’t see eye to eye on. There are plenty of times that annoyed the crap out of me.
And now I miss this. I miss this person who loved to hear my brain working out loud every time he told me religion was an opiate for the masses. I took his bait so easily. Now I marvel at the fact that there once was a person who wanted to argue with me about the world at large. For fun.
Ridiculous, right? Still, stay with me. Idolizing the dead is awesome. Because we get to pick our favorite qualities out about someone we loved deeply. We get to look at these qualities like they are stones that we want to polish in our minds. Why do I love remembering that Miles liked to pick fights with me? Because he wanted to hear what I thought and he wanted someone to listen to his thoughts. He wanted to see me and be seen.
There was a deep love that welled up between Miles and me, and that is what I see when I polish this memory stone. If I dip even deeper into this idea, I can see that our relationship was worth working on even with its annoyances. Some days, it pissed me off when Miles baited me. But I could always feel the love underneath. I knew Miles appreciated even my flaws. I often said to my husband on the way home, “Your dad baited me. He loves getting me fired up. I am annoyed at your dad.”
But I basked in his love. He invited us over most Saturday mornings. He made us breakfast from scratch. He often had a chocolate Dove bar in the pocket of his flannel shirt. The chocolate was for me. And then he would start talking about education or religion and off we would go, exercising our analytical skills until I couldn’t wait to leave.
People are full of contradictions. Love is full of contradictions. Miles took care of us. He saw us and loved us and was his real self with us. I carry him with me as I practice being my real self with others. Often I believe people don’t love the real me. But if I think about Miles I know he loved the real me, that I’m worthy of love. And I know, despite his very real human idiosyncrasies, that he was worthy of my love too. We loved each other. And when I really see someone else and love all of them, it’s in tribute to Miles and to our real relationship that continues long after he has left this world.
People want be really seen and loved. I see Miles in my heart all the time. This is why I’m so happy that I hung a painting of him on my wall this summer. It’s a portrait my husband did, and just corner of Miles is there: his thick glasses, his pale skin, an army green winter hat, folded just so, and a button down shirt. He doesn’t wear a smile. But there he is, still in my living room, a pleasant reminder to love these human children of mine, who are asking me to see them every day they are alive. It’s not like I need the painting to remind me of that. But boy I love hearing myself say to every person who walks through our front door, “Look, Miles is on our living room wall now.” See, idolizing the dead is awesome.