I remember visiting an elderly man who had lost his wife suddenly. He lived alone in a small flat and had a daughter and son-in-law who popped in regularly just to make sure he was coping.The times I spent with him were rich, and listening intently to his story, touched me deeply.
I can only describe his history as being that of a “man’s man.” He grew up in a traditional family where the roles of men and women were clearly defined, and after his marriage he was quick to apply these roles in his own home and family. He went on extended hunting and fishing trips. He became emotionally detached and distant from his wife and children leaving her to do most of the nurturing in the family. He spent hours making knives, drinking heavily and visiting the club which kind of became a second home. However, in spite of all this, he was materially a good provider and often prided himself in that.
In the later years, because of ill health, he became more and more dependent on his wife. He was plagued by guilt for things he did and didn’t do. The more she helped him, the more guilty he felt. Then, one night as they got ready to go to sleep, he reached across and kissed her. The following morning he woke up with her dead beside him. She had died of a heart attack in her sleep – who could ever grasp what she’d been through. His struggle to recover from this was at times unbearable and deeply painful.
I saw him sometime ago. He has taken to planting and nurturing the most beautiful African Daisies. Seeing this hard man with his gnarled fingers planting and stroking these beautiful little flowers has done something to me. He also has a little dog now which he dotes upon.
Why is it that so many men only discover their nurturing capacities late in life? If only this man’s family could have received just something of what he now gives to those little flowers and that little dog. But I celebrate that little dog and those little daisies; in their own healing way they have touched something deep inside of him, hence the tears that often well up in his eyes.
I think male nurturing is as natural as the rain. We’ve just forgotten how and the world is the poorer for it. But, having said that, the change I see in the younger men around me today, gives me great joy and hope. 🙂