The Eyes of Unconditional Love

heart-and-bellsOnce upon a time I wrote a poem about the eyes of love. It began: “consider with the eyes of love.” Though at that time I hadn’t yet learned about the difference that the qualifying word unconditional makes, what I meant by love in the poem actually was unconditional love. My parents and grandmother loved me very much. They were also quite critical of me, as well as of others they loved and otherwise thought well of. Unconditional love means just that—no criticism, no conditions on the love. It also to me means looking at others as well as at myself without a disapproving attitude.

My dear mother had most probably inherited her critical outlook on life from her highly critical mother who made frequent remarks concerning how she well as others looked. In her eyes one’s stomach was not supposed to be anything but flat as a pancake, one’s waist slender, etc. I at one time wondered why, when she was quite thin my mother wore a girdle. Then I learned it was because she believed bulges were not to be tolerated. She used to try with little success to get me to wear one. They were so uncomfortable, I wouldn’t. Eventually she too stopped wearing one.

My father too had his viewpoint. Once I acquired them my eyeglasses became an issue for him, especially when I was dressed up. I can hear him now as he aimed his camera, saying, “Take off your glasses and look pretty.” Thus whenever I was in my party clothes the glasses I wore from the third grade on became an issue for me, making me think I ought to take them off in order to look properly attractive. He was also particular about my hair, which was supposed to look smooth and symmetrical–properly arranged in a tidy manner.

My grandmother had very strong ideas about what it was to act like or to be a “lady.” When I was twelve, inspired by my first experience of being paid for it, I decided to earn money giving the puppet shows I wrote and performed for birthday parties. My grandmother quickly put an end to this. She told me sternly that ladies didn’t work. Then she gave me a twenty-dollar bill and said, “Now you don’t have to earn money.” She had grown up in a household where as she informed me, if a log rolled off the fire she rang for a maid to come in and put it back. While she did volunteer work, she had never earned money.

The critical eye that I inherited from my family persisted for a long time. It took me years to be aware of it. Then I had to learn to stop the little voice in my head that called attention to whatever deviation from the “norm” of beauty I perceived. To begin with I applied this to my view of others. Gradually I learned to do this for myself as well. The eyes of unconditional love do not see critically but with an understanding that for good reasons, we are all perfect just the way we are. These days the eyes I see through are my own, and I look out upon the world with love. As well, when I look in the mirror now, I smile.

Tasha Halpert

Fatherhood, by Tasha Halpert

Dad fishing in fla.We didn’t celebrate Fathers’ Day with a cookout when I was growing up. I don’t remember any cookouts at all. My dad didn’t cook anything much because my mother wouldn’t let him. She said he burnt things. Nor did he help much around the house except to polish the silver. He did that because it was the only way my mother would allow it to be displayed. She felt she had enough to do without polishing it. However for Fathers’ day we usually had a nice roast or some other kind of meat my dad enjoyed.

On the third Sunday in June we celebrate Fathers and acknowledge their importance to us. Since 1908, when the first Fathers’ Day was declared their role in the lives of families has greatly changed. While there were exceptions, most fathers then had little to do with raising their young children. Even in the 50’s it was rare for one to change a diaper, bathe or feed a baby unless mom was not available. Today many young fathers can be seen carrying, cuddling, and playing with their toddlers.

According to Celebrations, The Complete Book of American Holidays by Robert J. Myers, the closest ancestor for Fathers’ Day is an ancient Roman festival called Parentalia. It lasted from the 13th of February to the 22nd. Not for living fathers it was a time for the remembrance of departed parents and kinsfolk. It was celebrated with a family reunion that began at the cemetery with offerings of milk, honey, oil and water at flower decorated graves. Afterward people went home, feasted and visited.

The first observance of both Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day in the US were in 1908. Both took place in churches in West Virginia, one in May and one in June, in two different towns. They were held to honor the fathers of the women who arranged for them. Over time, and with the efforts of a number of different people, the day finally became established. However Fathers’ Day took longer than Mothers’ Day to become official.

By 1911 there was no a state without a Mothers’ day observance. It was even celebrated in many other countries. Fathers’ Day, though celebrated on the third Sunday in June in a number of states did not become officially observed until President Richard Nixon signed a congressional resolution. Prior to that an annual proclamation was required by any state to have one.

Not every parent is able to fulfill his or her role perfectly, yet all do the best they can. Setting a good example is paramount. Young boys need to know that it is just as manly to change a diaper as it is to throw a baseball. The nurturing that comes from a father’s heart is as precious as that from a mother’s. Many young male children today will grow up with a better understanding of what it is to be a parent than they might have in prior generations. More than ever today, fatherhood and fathers deserve celebration.