"We are mysteries to one another, leaving marks on one another."
The one with the power has the power to change the story.
Thunderstorms terrified him as a boy. A stern mother fueled the scorn he had for his own fear. To conquer the fear, he left his bed during one storm, venturing into the rain in his pajamas, and he climbed high into the biggest tree in the yard, holding the rain-slicked branches as the wind lashed the tree and lightning crashed all around him. The experience changed him. It drove his shame down deep into primal, permanent places within him, and it made him forever a "carnivore" who turns toward, rather than away from, the threats and fears in his world.
The experience was the lynchpin to his career and to the way he's lived the rest of his life. There is no challenge he won't engage, and there is no "quit" in him. It's also the worldview that caused him to drive his children so hard, even to estrangement, and it's certainly the reason why he's never quite been able to be the husband he's wanted to be for his wife.
He never shared the story with his family before. Maybe it was too sacred. Maybe it was too terrifying. But now he's told them, and nobody else.
The seminal moment in the man's life, the moment that defined the recurring theme in all of the years that followed, produced a mixture of success and bittersweet summation. It cost his family along the way, but it also opened doors for them so that they'll never have to face the sorts of challenges he's faced during his life. Certainly there are particular moments he regrets. Certainly he over-corrected and held too tenaciously to his convictions along the way. But there is nothing for which he feels compelled to apologize, nor is there any defensive explanation he feels he owes his family.
That's not what they needed anyway. What they needed was to hear that, deep down and in his own words, it's okay with the man that they're different from him. That he loves them. That all of the hard moments tied back to something, to some reason and compelling conviction that wasn't about them, even as it absolutely impacted them and left its mark on them. They needed a way to set down their own shame and anger. They really just needed to know why he is the way he is, to see him in a new and compassionate light, and to lay his life next to their own in ways that afford them the opportunity to love him for the man he is.
Common Patriarch Package Details
- Principal interviews
- Family interviews
- Associate/friend interviews
- Printed honor book
- Non-family honor book version
- Original illustrated children's book
- Commissioned art
- Original music
- Family gifts
- Advice book
- Honoring event / experience
- 6-18 month total engagement time
Please think of this as an abbreviated list of variations from which we can build the engagement.
Looking back on it now, the night in the thunderstorm seems like an obvious way of "decoding" the man, but he'd never put it together, and he'd never seen how his perspectives on fear, shame, control, and risk shaped everything about the adult he became and the family (and business) he led. Even if he had pieced it together, he wouldn't have known how to share it, nor would he have believed his family would make room to listen to his story; there was simply too much water under that bridge for him to believe sharing his story would be more than obnoxious self-aggrandizement.
Not all of the kids are ready to reconcile fully. That's okay with the man. He understands. There is still a lot of anger, and if they're not ready to hear the story and embrace him, he knows he cannot manipulate a different response. But now there is a book that holds his story, and it'll be there as an offer to them for when the time is right, even if that time doesn't come until after he's gone.
The book also includes blessings spoken for each child and grandchild. Those wait along with the story, and those blessings shape the way the man engages with each family member now.
It was awkward, but not overwhelming, to prepare for the weekend away where he spent about fifteen hours being interviewed. It was scarier to watch his wife read the compiled story for the first time. She was afraid he was sharing too much, but she cried for him and embraced him and told him she loved him.
He thought all he was going to get from the project was the book to share with his family (and a few friends). He was surprised by the privately commissioned sculpture of the tree in the storm that showed up at his house one day, and now sits on his desk as a tribute to the defining moment about which he has such deep but gentle ambivalence. And then there was the children's book, written specifically for him to read to his grandchildren. He watches his children as he reads it to their children, and he knows that there are all sorts of things they wish they'd heard from him as they were growing up.
He hopes that his children will all embrace him, and the wounded child in him whose convictions cost them so much, before he's gone. But even if they don't, he knows that they will be more likely to tell their stories, and to learn from them, sooner than he did. He knows that his grandchildren are growing up hearing, from him and from his children, the things he was unable to say, and that those gentle bits of encouragement will be an absolutely commonplace experience as part of his family. And when he goes, there will be nothing left unsaid.