After reading Paul Fleischman’s (2002), “Seedfolks”, Kim demonstrated that making a heart connection with a departed loved one is possible with a strong desire and effort. The special nature of father-child relationship is unique with each child. The basic nature and responsibility of a father is to provide material and emotional needs and to protect the child from harm and/or danger. The child should feel free to verbally express him/herself with a sense of security – all of which would enhance the child’s potential to become his/her best person.
When the parent is deceased it can be a challenge to embrace life until you began to seek the true life history of your loved one and perhaps, discover yourself. “I stared at my father’s photograph-his thin face stern, lips latched tight, his eyes peering permanently to the right” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 1). “I was nine years old and still hoped that perhaps his eyes might move” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 1)”. “ Might notice me” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 1). “ Here in Cleveland people call it spring” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2). Kim was a little girl, who lived in Cleveland with her mother and sisters who mourned the loss of her father.
Looking at his photograph only reinforced the painful fact that she never experienced a daughter-father relationship that she so desperately missed. Her desire for her father to see her was so profound that she wished that he could see her from his eyes in the photograph. I lost my father seventeen years ago. While I grew up with my father, I did not know him because of the emotional distance. While he was a wonderful provider, a devout Christian, I knew him as a strict disciplinarian. The heart-to-heart connection was unfortunately missed and he was a stranger to me. The candles and the incense sticks, lit the day before to mark his death anniversary, had burned out (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2. ). “The ice and meat offered him were gone” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2. ). “After the evening feast, past midnight, I’d been wakened by my mother’s crying” Fleischman, 2002, p. 2. ). “My oldest sister had joined in” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2. ). “My own tears had then come as well, but for a different reason” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2). Kim’s mother and sisters tears were from feelings of true life experiences with her father, unlike hers, which were from not knowing him.
Kim could only imagine the person of her father from a photograph and from what her mother and sisters shared with her. “I thought about how my mother and sisters remembered my father, how they know his face from every angle and held in their fingers the feel of his hands”(Fleischman, 2002, p. 3). “I had no such memories to cry over” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 3). Kim only dreamed about what it felt like to have had real life experiences like her sisters with their father. While the circumstances in the two situations are quite different, the impacts are similar.
Kim never had the chance to get to know her father in life, to experience hugs and one-on-one talks, sharing of thoughts and feelings – neither did I. “I filled my lunch thermos with water and reached into our jar of dried lima beans” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2). “I walked half a block, then crossed the street and reached the vacant lot” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 2). “I took out my spoon and began to dig” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 3). “I dug six holes (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). Kim was hopeful that she would make a heart-to-heart connection with her father. “I opened my thermos and watered them all” (Fleischman, 2002, p. ). Kim had a plan and with time she felt a sense of hope. “All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). She obviously remembered the conversations her mother and sisters shared with her about her father. “Here our apartment house had no yard (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). But in that vacant lot he would see me” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). “I would show him that I could raise plants, as he had (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). I would show him that I was his daughter” (Fleischman, 2002, p. 4). In Vietnam there must have been more land for farming than what they had in Cleveland.
Although, Kim could have made excuses for the lack of land, she endeavored to connect with her father the only way she knew – with a strong will and determination to plant lima beans – to become a farmer as he had been. What I learned and understood about my father through conversations with my older siblings was about the impact of the loss of my grandfather (my father’s father) at an early age, heavy responsibilities taken on at an early age (hardship of the Depression era) to help support his mother and younger siblings. This led him to a strong sense of responsibility and a deep faith.
But it all made him seem emotionally unavailable. The hard times for black families dealing with racial discrimination and the horrors of Jim Crow led to strictness that he, in all likelihood, felt was necessary for the survival of his children. There simply was no place for lighthearted fun. This greater understanding led to a stronger connection with my father, and an appreciation for such things as his devotion to having taken care of his family, his integrity, compassion for those less fortunate than himself, and the commitment as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.
What I have discovered about myself is that I have in reality grown more like him. The traits I have in common with my father are the compassion for people in need, reaching out to help others and being a committed Sunday school teacher. All of these things have brought me to a heart-to- heart connection with my father. At first glance my circumstances and Kim’s circumstances seemed vastly different until I, like this young girl embarked upon a journey of discovery and through communication, understanding and effort made a heart-to-heart connection with my father.
In Kim’s situation, she discovered who her father was and took action to become, in a small way, more like him. My journey of discovery led me to realize how much my father and I had in common and to strive even more to be like him. While our fathers are no longer with us, we forged a connection to them that can only grow stronger through the years.
Fleischman, P. (2002). Seedfolks. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.