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Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA

Seeking the approval of my Father

Questions about a father/son relationship.

Brian McLaughlin

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To Whom It May Concern:

Like most sons I have spent a lot of time and energy seeking the approval of my Father.

I was often ill. I was, and am, prone to depression.

Furthermore, I was born without the ability to hit, kick, shoot or throw with any expectation of accuracy.

The face I shave in the mirror each morning stares back ruddy and round. To be polite one would say my features are less than Greek.

The world of letters and numbers also escaped my understanding. After much remediation, I still struggle with the seemingly simple task of getting my letters and numbers in order. As one might guess my check book is rarely balanced and the many books in my Father’s library go unread by me.

I never did give him grandchildren to carry on his legacy and name. They say you never miss what you never had. They are wrong.

Finally, in my youth I tried impressing my Father with the size of my pay check. While I have always been blessed to have enough, great wealth has as yet escaped me.

Recently, I went to visit my Father. He is 86 and currently resides in a skilled nursing facility. He is often tired these days so I generally pull up a chair and sit with him as he naps. After about an hour of sitting in silence, I quietly placed the sports page and a large chocolate bar on his bed stand. I lingered a bit in contemplation of my Father’s now silver hair. I turned to leave and as I did I heard my Father say: " You’re a good Son Brian, you’re a good boy."

As I walked to my car, I thought of what magic must have been contained in the mystical combination of a sports page and a chocolate bar. I quickly dismissed this line of thought.

In the end I learned something very important. Despite, chronic illness, imperfection and lack, real and imagined, my Dad thinks I am more than enough just for showing up.

Respectfully Submitted for Your Consideration,

Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS CSP
MH Advocate
Erie County PA