10/09/2006

forgiveness

My father came up to visit for the weekend and we took Alice to the zoo. I love watching the way my dad interacts with her. He talks to her like she's a little adult and she loves the way it makes her feel important. As our day was wrapping up and we were headed back to our car my dad says, "I could sure use a cold beer." Doesn't seem like anything extraordinary does it? Well it wouldn't be if my father were not an alcoholic. In a matter of seconds I felt like I'd traveled back what seems like a million years ago to that scared twelve year old sitting on a bar stool at her father's favorite pub. I remember watching my father tip back beer after beer, occasionally glancing my way to make sure I hadn't moved. I remember feeling abandoned. I remember feeling trapped in a reality I couldn't escape. As I stood there staring at my father as he seemed oblivious that his remarks would bother me at all I responded, "I could have used a father when I was growing up." He didn't respond and now there was this uncomfortable silence surrounding us. We both quickly pretended that the moment hadn't occurred at all just like we've done a hundred times before but denial only comforts you momentarily.

After we got home and Alice went down for a nap we sat in my living room and it was apparent that neither of us knew how to get past the moment we tried to deny existence. "Did you ever forgive me," he asked. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to say. I know I've tried to forgive him and sometimes I think I've actually convinced myself that I have but then the reality of his disease stands firmly in front of me and the pain that's accumulated all these years seems to be the only thing I can acknowledge. "I'm not sure I know how to do that," I responded. Forgiving someone has always been hard for me. People hurt you and sometimes they don't mean to but other times they inflict that pain even when they are fully aware of it. I know he has a disease, one that he cannot control but this huge part of me despises the part of him that has never tried to control it. I think about Lash and how lucky his kids are that their father loves himself and them enough to get sober. Why didn't my dad feel the same? Why even now at the age of 38 do I still feel so 'affected' by his choices? I ask myself if I did to my children what my dad did to me, would I want them to forgive me? It's a hard question to answer because there's this huge part of me that believes that forgiving my father enables him to relinquish his guilt. Maybe there's this twisted little part of me that thinks his guilt is the only thing that allows me any sort of vindication. Maybe I'm afraid that if I forgive him it makes all the pain I've endured meaningless.

So we sat there, a father humbled by his mistakes and a daughter broken by them. So many times I've convinced myself that I'm whole, that I've accepted who and what my father is but the truth is I do not know if I'll ever be able to. I still wonder what he sees at the bottom of that beer bottle and if it's magnificent enough to keep him from looking up at the life he's throwing away.

11 Comments:

  1. Michelle said...
    The stories about your father come crashing down on the wall that I have built between me and the feelings I have for my father.
    I too use to sit with my dad in his favorite pub and watch him drink beer after beer. I often wondered if other fathers did this with their kids, but I always seemed to be the only one there.
    That was the only thing my dad ever did with us, never a family vacation or the ball field. I have tried many times to have a relationship with my dad but to no advail. I know that I will never forgive him for not being there, not being the dad I know he could have been. I will just keep building that wall that separates me from the emotional scares he has left me.
    NML said...
    I have some level of understanding about what you are going through with your father and I really do empathise. It was sad that after having such a lovely time together, instead of saying for instance 'I wish I had more time with her' he mentions a clod beer instead. Whatever pleasures he gets with you and your daughter, his biggest pleasure is still alcohol. I understand your reticence about forgiveness but don't let his actions hold you back in your own life.
    Chuck said...
    The pain my father caused me still ache's like an old war wound. It's healed but scared. Even though I no longer hold it against him it still hurts and has residual effects that reach my children. It's way to easy to pick up resentment and unforgiveness again but I know to do that would mean a re-opened wound that becomes more difficult to heal. I could go into way, way too much detail so I'll stop here.
    Tab said...
    You will learn to let go when you are ready Net.No sooner or later.
    This is a deep one.
    ((Thank you for sharing))
    kimmyk said...
    I remember sitting in bars with my mom when I was little shoving quarters from strangers in the jukebox and eating so many bags of chips and drinking pop til I thought my bladder was going to float.

    Memories. Growing up with alcoholic parents...they all seem to be the same...to some extent huh?
    e.e. said...
    wow.
    Thank you for sharing... more than you needed to.
    How many times have i screamed that i wish i had a mother growing up. But now the pain is past, and there is only emptiness.
    What is there left?
    I think, there before the grace of god, go I.
    I still love her anyway.
    ...sometimes.
    ...forgiveness? It's all a part of our humility, yes?
    "I'm sorry." "I forgive you."
    Why is it so hard to say these things? Will it be 40 more years? I have no idea.
    Will I stand over her and scream at her and beg her to apologize?
    No. She is not the same.
    And nor am I...
    NMAMFQLMSH said...
    Holy cow NWC....not only did this make me cry it reminded me of me and my dad. Unfortunately, neither my dad or I were sober when he passed away. I never did get the chance to talk to him about it. I know he would be proud of me today. I just know it. Thank you for sharing something that I know is close to your heart and very close to mine.
    I see you,
    JJ
    CeeCi said...
    Ten years ago, when I was exactly the age you are now, I watched my alcoholic father battle for his life against lung cancer.

    Next to his hospital bed, as he struggled for every breath, we finally found the courage to say the words we'd been too afraid to utter. "I love you." "I'm sorry." "I forgive you."

    When he passed away less than two weeks later I was grief stricken, yet knew I had no regrets. Telling him I forgave him took every ounce of love and courage I had. The peace I felt when he died was because we'd connected at last and said the words we had to say.

    There is freedom in forgiveness.

    ♥ CeeCi
    Caterpillar said...
    I'm completely blown away by this post and by all the comments from others who went through very similar things. It makes my eyes tear up, so much pain. It also makes me so proud of myself that I stopped before I ever had children so they will never have to struggle to forgive me for my addiction. Your stories about your dad are so raw and sad and moving, and definitely pull me in in such a way.

    I can't pretend at all that I've ever gone through something like this so I don't know, but I was really touched by CeeCi's comment. I wouldn't want you to never get that chance to tell your father the words he probably really needs to hear, and you might need to say them as well. I'm not saying it has to be now, but I just hope that you can tell him someday. xxoo
    Gwen said...
    Wow ~ that was me too sitting in all those bars/pubs/Elks/etc. You are further in your relation with your dad though. I can not talk to my dad about anything from our childhood. He is too explosive and unstable. I would be scared of how he would react. Scared for him, not me. Keep trudgin.
    lash505 said...
    Thanks, I have to do my best. It is a unconditional love I have now for my kids.. I love your blog and you too.. thanks again.

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