Forgiving my Father

17 Jan

My father came over the other day to make peace after a decade of distance.  Why now?  I have no idea.  But I am finding that I don’t want to reach out.  There is anger there, and a need for forgiveness.  But he does not know for what, so he cannot ask.  And for what again, am I forgiving him?  For marrying my mom, for not leaving her?  For being Republican?  For never calling or asking about what is important to me or learning how to treat me like the adult I am?  He once told me that when I give him unexpected hugs, those are the happiest moments in his life.  I can’t remember the last time a piece of me touched a piece of him.  I don’t like making him happy, and that cruelty is not like me.

If I forgive him, then what?  What would I have left? Has he forgiven me?  I know he does not know me anymore or care, for that matter.  He used to know me better than I knew me.  He would tell people about me in front of me, like he had been watching me closer than I watched myself.  It was odd that he knew what I needed.  Does he know now?  Does he care?

He never hit me or raised his voice.  He never drank or was dumb with money.  I have so little to forgive him for, but I can’t do it.  I don’t know how, and part of me doesn’t want to.  What twisted part of me is that?  Wouldn’t reconciliation feel good, a big hug laced with tears and relief?  But then what?  Would anything change?  Do I fear the awkwardness?  The hard work?  The vulnerability?  The possibility of disappointment?

He brings up sports sometimes.  That is what he was best at.  He coached me, came to all my meets and games and marathons.  He remembers my great moments better than I do.  He tries to rekindle what we had when he was on his pedestal, not realizing he could be my friend if he could just redefine dad.  He wants me to still need him for money or advice.  He wants to still be able to teach me things.  He still wants power and control.  But I am an independent woman.  If I need anything, I need a mutual relationship.  I need him to acknowledge that maybe he has something to learn from me, too.  He is not less as I become more.  Or is he?

He embodies what I fight against- unacknowledged priviledge.  A culture of power that will not admit or work to change wealth, old money, the comfort of systems handing us things.  He does not like being uncomfortable.  He does not much know what oppression feels like.  He is a benevolent dictator who will not let my very story change his heart.  He is the man.  I benefited from that man, from that money, from those opportunities.

The conversation ended with him yelling and swearing and me shutting down and asking him to leave.  I am a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship.  I refuse to respond to men who yell at me.  He called the next day to say he thought the conversation went well, that we were making progress.  I have retreated, oceans away.

A friend reminds me of a wise Buddhist saying that anger is like trying to pass on a burning coal.  It is your hand that is getting burned.  Is holding the coal burning me more than him?  Do I need to forgive him for my soul?  For his?  Or do I leave him on the ground with his full pockets, standing next to his pedestal, to find my own terrain?

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