Monday, June 20, 2011

Da Count-Da Dad

Those of you who have been with me for a long time may recall some of the pieces I've written about the somewhat difficult relationship with my dad.  I don't write about warm, fuzzy memories of him from my childhood because that ain't how it was.  That's not to say I have no happy memories just that the overwhelming impression of him was of a distant, angry man who was impossible to please and who could easily be pushed into frightening rage. 

I often wondered if he loved my brother and me.  I came to the conclusion eventually that he did.  It was just expressed in withholding his worst from us rather than blessing us with his best...or maybe even that withholding his worst was the best he could give at the time.

I also concluded long ago that if I were to be at all healthy I'd have to find a way to forgive the things he did inflict on our family, not because it mattered to him but because I needed to lay the hurt to rest and let it go.  It was a step in healing to give up expecting an apology that would likely never come.

Then a couple years ago in a completely unexpected way there was a small, unsolicited acknowledgement of wrongdoing in which he took responsibility for causing some harm.  It wasn't an outright apology but it was an olive branch.  I was stunned but I received it quietly and gratefully.

In the last couple of years there have been certain small overtures on his part to which I have responded favorably.  In the last year, as you well know, there have been an inordinate number of trials in the life of our family.  At times when I've had to report the latest chapter in the seemingly unending saga Dad has asked if there was something he could do to be of assistance.  Sometimes there has been something small I've dared to ask for, more often there has not been anything that came to mind.

Recently, I felt compelled out of desperation to ask for something very significant, something I vowed I'd never ask for because the risk was too great.  However, it was related to Calypso's welfare and I felt powerless to deal with this particular issue from my own resources.  Dad was not only favorable, he was emphatically and repeatedly reassuring that he was at my disposal with regard to me request.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude and relief as I told him thanks because all that mattered was my kid's well-being.  He looked at me and agreed that a Dad should do whatever it takes to make that happen for his own kid.

And so, though I have only one memory as a child of my welfare being a clear motivator for him (though later I did come to realize there were other indicators) I am deeply grateful for a milestone in my adulthood in which he blesses his child and grandchild with good rather than merely restraining his dark side to avoid causing harm.

10 comments:

coopernicus said...

perfect

Bijoux said...

Sounds as though you are on a good path.

Suldog said...

Our Dads sometimes are revealed as more caring in retrospect than we imagined them during the past. Dads of their generation (yours and mine would be close in birth year, I suspect) weren't expected to be touchy-feely so much as strong and given only to 'manly' emotions. Anyway, it sounds as though he is doing the wonderful right thing now, so good for all concerned.

Cricket said...

A tear in my eye for you both.

This story, I think, has something to do with why "hope" is considered one of the theological virtues.

Craig said...

"I. . . concluded long ago that if I were to be at all healthy I'd have to find a way to forgive the things he did inflict on our family, not because it mattered to him but because I needed to lay the hurt to rest and let it go."

That's real wisdom, right there. . .

It can be, um, disconcerting to bump up against our parents' sinfulness (to put it in 'theological' terms). But as we mature, we come increasingly to understand that their sinfulness is of a piece with their humanity (and ours). . .

I also find myself realizing that, even in my mid-50s, I'm still learning and growing. It's a little odd to think that the same was probably true of my dad - that, even when he was my age (while I was in college), he was still learning and growing, too.

Life has a way of beating us about the head and shoulders, and nudging us in a, shall I say, 'holier' direction. . .

Anyway, that's a pretty wordy and high-falutin way of saying that my heart is warmed on your behalf (and your dad's) that the two of you are coming to a closer, warmer connection with each other. . .

silly rabbit said...

I am happy for you both! Its wonderful that he was there for you when you needed him so much, despite past issues. I hope that grows.

Susan in the Boonies said...

That's a blessing!

Hilary said...

I'm glad for you, Michelle. And I'm glad for him, too.

secret agent woman said...

I've had some similar issues with my Dad - it's always a remarkable thing that there can be some resolution even with a very strained parent-child relationship.

Jocelyn said...

Part of ageing that I'm enjoying is being able to see the larger arcs of relationships--that they aren't always going to be what they were or what they are right now. If we get to hang in there with each other, there can be new angles.

Hence, I was teared up by the end of this. Good job, Lime's Dad, for coming through for the kid.