This week I am mourning - and celebrating - the passing of my family patriarch. My father's 89-year ride got bumpy towards the end. But thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, I was able to help guide him through to a longer, less painful, and eminently memorable end. This Irishman passed after the season opener of his beloved Red Sox. And with a sense of humor befitting a good Irishman, he passed away in a snoring sleep on April Fool's Day.
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before
the devil knows you're dead.
As I celebrate this week with my six sisters (4 redhead, 2 blonde), brother, myriad in-laws, out-laws, and kin, I'm finding myself slowly and reluctantly evolving to my own position in the greater family. Nobody told me to take the reigns on my father's health care in his latter years. It's a role I evolved into as other family members contributed their time and love in their own ways. Brother had the finances, one sister provided several years of boarding before I extracted dad and put him into a more intensive care setting, and all family members found their own ways to be good sons, daughters, grandchildren, and nephews. Friends of my dad were welcome in as family members, and they're all in my BlackBerry. I know them all by first name and could call them 24/7 in a pinch.
Was the journey always smooth? Hell no! I know way too much information about my family members. And there were days... But the qualities that got me through those rough times were first a firm grip on the prime directive (dad's wellbeing), a touch of humility, a firm grasp of the situation at hand, an evolving emotional intelligence, a (sometimes shaky) social network around me, and last but not least a good sense of humor. More and more on that last point I'm beginning to understand why so many comedians come from the Jews and the Irish. It's a survival mechanism. It's better than SSRIs.
This in my opinion is a metaphor for how a karate family should live. Those of us who have been here since the very early days of Kanei Uechi et al know that the journey can be alternately joyous and unseemly. We've seen the best and the worst of the brothers and sisters around us. We've had to work very hard focusing on what "the greater good" really is. When one prime directive doesn't make global sense (e.g. a martial system to be run by generations of a single family), others must evolve on the spot. And all this happens in the context of an evolving martial world which is fed by the marketing of sport karate, Hollywood chop suey, and Sensei daycare.
What "it" is and who "we" are is often an overwhelming battle irrespective of the imperfections in character of our peers. At some point, leaders and visionaries need to step forward and create new prime directives which are inclusive enough to give "us" the critical mass we need to perform at optimal levels.
There were days in dealing with my dad where I didn't think I could do it with grace. There are days doing my Uechi where I wonder if this will still be around in a generation or two to any degree. But this I do know. With enough good people, things evolve and people make do. And sometimes the journey takes us places we never expected to be. But if we have faith in ourselves, in process, and in each other, we have the capacity to see and enjoy many new and exciting tomorrows.