Hamington’s article “A Father’s Touch” was an emotional journey for me. As I read the words he used to describe his caring touch with his daughter, tears began to stream down my face. Although my dad and I never read together, we often sat with each other. Even in adulthood, we used to hold each other and cuddle. I know this must sound strange to some. Partially, our closeness grew because we shared the same month for our birthday celebrations. It was always considered our day. He would sit in the recliner and I would sit on his lap. He would shake every present handed to him and then attempt to guess what was underneath the neatly tied wrapping. Most of the time, his guesses rang true. I used to pull the bows off of the presents and place them on his head. We laughed. We also shared a love for music. My dad was the one who bought me my first guitar. He was an amazing guitar player. Left handed too. On Sunday nights, we would put on a show for our family. His talent at listening to a song and then playing it back to you was astonishing. He sang too but always back up for me. These were the good times.
There were unpleasant times as well. When I was little, I had a bowel condition. My mother and father could not understand why I did not want to do number 2. Worried that I would have a bowel obstruction, my father was the one that placed the supplement up my butt and sat with me until I went to the bathroom. I was very young at the time so the conversations we had are somewhat blurred today. What I do remember went something like this: “I know this is uncomfortable but mom and dad love you so it is important that you try to poop.” I chose this event to share because like the world Hamington created for him and his daughter, I remembered experiencing with my father. Although, I was too young to remember or even understand exactly what my father was saying, I knew my father cared.
I too, like Gilligan and I agree with him that others are too quick to attack the caregiving issues she raises with essentialism (I believe the bigger issues in Gilligan’s work have to do with justice-but that is another discussion). However, I have not had a chance to read a lot of Merleau-Ponty. But so far, I have enjoyed the second hand knowledge gained from our readings. I cannot wait until I get my hands on Speaking from the Heart by Rita Manning that he cites. The practices of care giving are reciprocal and embodied through habitualization, even if these meanings appear in reflection after time has passed (Hamington). Feder Kittay (1999) talked about how we often grow up forgetting we are all some one’s child. Hamington wrote, “Beyond, and independent of, our verbal consciousness, our bodies carry on a dialogue with the world around us” (p. 278). Is it that we forget or that we fail to listen?
I lost my father a year before I started attending OU. My world will always be different because I can no longer physically see the expressions on my dad’s face or feel my dad’s touch. That doesn’t mean I have to stop listening, even if this means using my moral imagination—because the dialogue through my body that I can carry on with others is a reminder of the love my father shared with me.