This last month or so has been really rough. (Hell, who am I kidding, the last 40 years have been really rough, but let’s just focus on the last month, shall we?) I’ve been doing a lot of meditating. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I’ve been really working on myself and the things I keep what feels like bottled up deep inside, but is really just beneath the surface. Last night it just came to a head; a breaking point.
My father and I have always had a difficult relationship. I was never a daddy’s girl. Growing up my father was distant and rageful at times. He could be cutting and cold. Most of my memories of him are of his drunken rages. I would stand up to him face to face and challenge him even though he terrified me. He terrified everyone in the house at times. Someone had to do something. So I did, and because of that, I bore the brunt of a lot of his misery.
Yes. His misery. I honestly don’t know a great deal about my father and his upbringing. I know he was the youngest of 5, with an older brother he adored who died suddenly when my father was in his early 20s before I was born. I know his father died suddenly when he was 3 years old and that his mother fell into a deep depression. I never even realized that he only had an eighth-grade education when I was a full grown adult. He was so successful even with his addiction. He was so smart; so good with math and mechanical things. He could see it in his head. My son shares that. You wonder how someone could do so much with so little, and honestly, my father is quite phenomenal. It makes you wonder what he could have had if he had also been loved and cared for as a child.
I came home last night with a heart that felt like it was a thousand pounds. Holding onto hurt is heavy like that. As I poured myself a vodka and Dr. Pepper to get through the evening, I lit my cigarette, took a sip and a drag and burst into tears. Here I was numbing the pain just as he did. Just as he so desperately tried to make the pain of his life experience easier to bear, I sat doing the same thing. For the first time, I saw him with mercy. For the first time, I saw him as broken. For the first time I understood that even though it was chaotic and scarring, he was doing the best he could and what he knew; what he had probably always known. He had loved me the best he could. He had just never been loved the right way.
I cried harder.
I then pulled out my phone and sent him the following:
“Daddy- I forgive you.
I know how hard it was for me growing up. I expected more than you had to give because it hadn’t been shown to you. Not the right way. It’s hard to cope. You turn to things to numb hurt. I get that now. I’m sorry you’ve had to wrestle so many demons. I love you, and I forgive you. Just know that.
Just know when I stood up to you I was only trying to do what I felt was right.”
He responded back, “I know.”
And then I asked him the question that has colored every relationship I’ve ever had with a man:
“Do you love me? Even when I’m difficult to love? Do you love me anyway? Because you loving me is the most important.”
He responded, “Yes I have always loved you. My love for you is unconditional.”
Even though it was text, my father has never said to me. Ever. My mother was always the one to tell me “Daddy loves you.” But for him to say it to me; those words mean more to me than anything. I think I’ve acted out relationships with the wrong people over and over and over in a way of trying to get my father to love me. Desperately wanting to be loved and cherished.
I thanked him and we both said that we loved each other and left it at that, but I felt a huge weight lifted from me almost immediately.
If you are reading this and you are also hurting, work on surrendering your past to the past. People can and do change all the time. I’m not who I was 20 years ago. I’m not even sure I’m the same person I was in January.
There’s a lot going on in the world out there right now that we can’t control, but we can control how we respond and hold onto things. Lighten your load, my friend. Forgive.