My Dad and My Uncle Overcame their Political Divide. We Can Too.
My dad and my uncle overcame their political divide and other personal differences day after day, week after week, year after year. Pretty remarkable because they were very different men.
My dad was a Democrat.
My uncle is a Republican.
My dad was a jokester.
My uncle is grave.
My dad was an extrovert.
My uncle is an introvert.
My dad lived to talk.
My uncle lives to think.
My dad was a homebody.
My uncle loved to travel.
Despite their many differences, they appreciated each other and they were good friends.
In large part, my dad and my uncle overcame their political divide by talking about what they had in common.
Their love for their wives who were sisters.
Their love of their children, their nieces, and nephews.
Their roles in their wives’ large, extended family.
Their shared histories within their family, church, and community.
From the outside, my uncle appeared to be the privileged one.
My uncle was strong and healthy.
My dad was in a wheelchair.
My uncle had a good job.
My dad left a job he loved when multiple sclerosis disabled him in his early 30s.
My uncle stopped into visit my dad after work several times a week.
My dad waited all day for my uncle to come.
My uncle lifted my dad off the floor when he fell off the toilet.
My dad sat silent while my uncle wiped away the feces smeared on Dad’s body.
My uncle took his kids, his nieces, and nephew camping.
My dad wished he could do the same and was all smiles when my uncle and his family made that happen.
From the outside, Dad appeared to be the vulnerable one. Those of us on the inside saw Dad give as much as he received.
When my uncle despaired of our country’s direction, my dad pointed him to hope.
When my uncle arrived worn down by work, my dad made him laugh.
When my uncle piled our families into his station wagon for an adventure, Dad’s joy was contagious.
When my uncle carried Dad to the basement during tornado warnings, my dad winked and said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
My dad and my uncle overcame their political divide day after day, week after week, year after year because they understood that the externals didn’t matter. What mattered was using their talents, privileges, strengths, and weaknesses to build a better life for their families.
When my uncle came to my dad’s funeral, my sister and brother and I tried to express our gratitude for all he had done to enhance Dad’s life and ours, too.
My uncle held up a hand to silence us. “I want you to know,“ he said as a smile graced his face, “it was good. For me as much as for your dad. It was all good.”
My dad and my uncle overcame their political divide and found good on the other side–good that has blessed both their families for more than 65 years.
Imagine the good our country could do if we used our talents, privileges, strengths, and weaknesses to build better lives for everyone who lives here. If people as different as my dad and my uncle could do it by talking about what they had in common, maybe we can too.
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Jolene Philo is both parent and daughter of loved ones with special needs and disabilities, as well as a former educator who worked with children for 25 years. She’s written several books about caregiving, special needs parenting, and childhood PTSD, including the recently released Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilties, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman. She speaks internationally about caregiving and parenting children with special needs and blogs at www.DifferentDream.com. Jolene and her husband live in central Iowa.
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