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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 29 thIs september WIll be the first anniversary of my father’s death. It’s not just that I miss him. I do. but I am also mourning something else. before my father died, I considered whatever he was planning to will to me, my mother, and my three brothers a gift—nothing more and nothing less. but in my father’s final hours, I realized it was more than a gift. for him it was the equivalent of his love for his family. since my father died, millions of peo- ple have lost trillions of dollars due to the crumbling economy. While we all take in our individual and collective losses, a deeper grief has run though me like a quiet, steady stream. looking at the graphs that track the stock market’s decline, I feel as if the years of toil my father put into his work and invest- ments are disintegrating. In buddhism we learn to use equanimity to cope with the losses we ex- perience, but this economic crisis is tough. While so many of us have reacted with anger, panic, or anxiousness, what I feel more than anything else is sadness for my father and his hopes. my father grew up poor and fatherless. his own father, a swede who’d come to america as a young man, drank and gambled away a successful building-supply company in southern Califor- nia. In the 1930s, when my father was twelve years old, he and his sister climbed into a car and, with their mother at the wheel, the hapless threesome bounced across the country on bumpy roads to Greenwich, Connecticut. at one of the estates sprawled out on the rolling, green suburban landscape, there was a housekeeping job waiting for my father’s mother, a norwegian who, years later, would end up having a breakdown and living the rest of her days in a mental institution. my father worked on the estate helping out with the chores. then, when he was old enough, he got a job as a soda jerk. there’s photosCourtesyofJamesKullander Love’s Legacy Lost A child of one economic crisis, he died on the eve of another. His gift of love was economic security for his family. His son JaMeS kUllandeR reflects on the sadness of a legacy lost. JaMeS kULLanDeR is a program developer and editor at omega institute in Rhinebeck, new york, and a freelance writer. his essay, “My Marital Status,” appears in the best buddhist Writing 2008 and is the basis for a memoir he is completing. a saw-tooth photo of him behind the counter, as thin as a rail and with hair so blond that even in black and white it startles the eye. he became an eagle scout and graduated from high school with honors. at the outbreak of World War II he joined the marines and was assigned to the military police at pearl harbor. after the war, he completed his engineering degree at syracuse, where on a blind date he met the woman who would become his wife and my mother. he launched himself on a career path that took him from sales, to personnel management, to various executive posts, finishing his slow but steady climb up the corporate ladder as president of mueller brass Company in port huron, michigan. he retired in 1986. the guy worked hard and he worked quietly, often disappearing from the family for days in a row while he toiled away at jobs he sometimes disliked and that wore him out. he had four hungry boys and a wife to feed and shelter, and he did so—unlike his own father. sometimes, dad would remind us of his dependability, saying that none of us would ever have to worry about where our next meal was going to come from or about having a roof over our heads. at the dinner table one time when I was a teenager, my ex- hausted mother complained about my father being away so much. stock market’s decline, I feel as if the years of toil my father put into his work and invest- ments are disintegrating. In buddhism we learn to use equanimity to cope with the losses we ex- perience, but this economic crisis is tough. While so many of us have reacted with anger, panic, or a saw-tooth photo of him behind the counter, as thin as a rail and James kullander’s parents, Donald and Jean, in 1948 at Syracuse University. Left, James with his parents at their apartment in Jacksonville, Florida, in March, 2008.