New book by Philip Kenney

The Writer's Crucible Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity

Phil Kenney

Philip Kenney is a practicing psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon. He did his post-graduate work in British Object Relations at the Washington D.C. School of Psychiatry and has taught Self Psychology as part of his private practice. A long time meditator and poet, Mr. Kenney is the author of the novel, Radiance, and a collection of poetry, Where Roses Bloom. He strives to bring together the worlds of psychology, creativity and spirituality in his work and is the author of a new book on those subjects entitled, The Writer's Crucible: Meditations on Emotion, Being and Creativity.

Special Edition: Dad

January 9, 2013

Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversary of my father’s passing. He left the morning of the most luminous full moon I’ve ever witnessed, one that bathed the wetlands of South Carolina in a pearl white lotion of what felt like nothing short of grace.

Dad’s stubbornness was legendary in our family, and it was no surprise to us that the rare bile duct cancer that was estimated to take him in six to nine months needed nearly three years to bring him down. He entered and exited Hospice three times in that thirty-six month span.

Dad didn’t “battle” cancer in the heroic, militant way so many people talk about. His was a quiet defiance. He managed cancer the way he did other difficult things in his life: he ignored it. It took one chemo treatment to decide against poisoning himself, and to the doctor’s dismay, he quit. He quit, settled into his chair, adopted his seasoned mid-western posture and practiced a native form of Zen, captured by this comment; “I take it as it comes.”

Not that my father was a spiritual man, far from it. He was a numbers guy. An accountant’s accountant. His view of reality and the possibilities of life was as narrow as our driveway. Many times he drove me nuts with unbending constriction in every facet of his life.



We lived through Vietnam together and fought like dogs over American policies. He thought the election of Kennedy was the end of civilization. By the time I was finishing college, we couldn’t even talk about the New York Knickerbockers without ending up in a heated argument.

My father was difficult to get close to, but he was a good man, devoted to bringing his family into a better world than he grew up in. He was decent and did his work with integrity. And I must say, Dad had the least self-aggrandizing ego of anyone I’ve known. Somewhere, somehow, he had renounced the need for attention.

In a rare moment of self-expression during my junior year of high school he said to me, “As you get older, time accelerates.” This was another instance when I considered him nuts. I was suffering through day after day at school staring at the unbearably slow moving clock and certain I was trapped there forever.

Now I hear those words of his in my mind and realize how true they are. My son tells me time does not exist. He says it is just the shape of the mind at any given instant. (Maybe he should be writing this blog!) What was my Dad thinking about time? He never told me.

But time did speed up. And now twelve years have passed. And I’m still missing him. How do you miss someone you barely had? How do you miss someone whose pragmatism sucked the life out of nearly everything, including me? How do you miss someone whose reticence could be heard throughout the house? Someone who hated the Beatles? Who loved Nixon?

I don’t know. But I miss the stubborn old fart. I miss the stale coffee on his breath. The edges of his mouth pulled down in a sad frown. The gleam in his eye when the hot fudge sundae arrived. I miss my Dad. The one it took me fifty years to accept.

I don’t know how, when or why I was able to accept him. I just know that at some point in time the awkward silences weren’t so bad. The disapproving looks didn’t hurt so much.  And the political opinions were forgivable. Thankfully, something in me had softened.

Twelve years have passed since that sad morning. I was on the way to the airport when I got the call from my wife, Lori, who had felt moved at the last, to go to his side. Twelve years that feel, simultaneously, like twelve centuries and twelve minutes.

Who have you lost? What do you miss? What allows for acceptance?



4 Responses

  1. Heather Everett says:

    I think as time moves on we all realize that we are in the same boat and, most likely, doing the best we can. While I can’t imagine hating the Beatles, I can’t imagine liking the music the teens are chanting these days. There is a loss of musicality, but it must speak to them somehow as they strive to be what we are not. I never wanted to be my parents or like the things they like. Part of the reason I wear skulls in Oklahoma is because it defines me as “other.” Because I can and I love watching them hurdle over the latest strange thing I’ve worn to their home. I’m 44, I’m not sure the amusement will end soon.

    But I’ve come to realize how hard their lives were and what they were doing while I struggled to grow and I respect them and love them for everything.

    As for what I miss…I miss the wonderful person that brought me full circle in my life so I could appreciate these things in life.

    Hopefully, I have truly lost no one. I carry them with me.

    • Phil Kenney says:

      You carry me and I carry you. I loved reading your comment, Heather. Our parents lives were hard. Good to remember. I wish more people realized that we are all in the same boat.

  2. Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Superb blog and brilliant design and style.

    • Phil Kenney says:

      Hello to you. I’m so happy you’re enjoying my blog and sharing it with your contacts. I hope to post a new piece either today or tomorrow. Keep in touch.

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