My father passed away many years ago. I was 23 when he died and had only seen him 2 times in the preceding nine years.
I and my two brothers and two sisters all went out to be with him at the end. I cannot speak for my siblings, but I can say there were some meaningful moments of reconciliation for me. I assume there were some for them as well.
Still, there was little in the way of tears for me. I simply did not know him very well. Nor did I think much about him one way or the other. Earlier in life I had hated him with a passion, well at least with as much passionate hatred as a young person was capable of. He was a bully. The fact that he was not able to support our family very well added a lot of stress to our mother’s life as did the way he treated her in general. The fact that our mother’s life was so hard was most of the reason I hated him. Poverty and alcoholism are not a very creative mix. My mother’s own alcoholism, her struggles with anxiety, and a nervous breakdown from the stress, all of these factors added to the struggles of her middle years.
Living in a dilapidated house, driving old, constantly breaking down cars, wearing the cheapest clothes and in general never really having much in the way of fun family times, it simply was not a very happy household. When I was thirteen they were divorced. After a year or two of relative involvement by him in my life, he married a woman and moved to the Chicago area. After that I only saw him a couple of times over the next decade before he died.
Living through a very painful disease in my teen years, stumbling towards my own problems with drugs and alcohol, struggling with many aspects of high school, not charting an intelligent education and a career plan, this was my experience after he was gone. I did not know how much I had missed until I became a father myself.
When I saw how much I gave to my son, or tried to give, I began to realize how much I had missed out on.
But all of these memories are from many years ago. I will be 61 in July. It has been 37+ years since he died. Most of the anger has been washed away.
And there are some happy memories such as the time he came to 1 or 2 football games, and a high school play I had a leading role in. There were other times when he would call on the phone. My mother and brother, our household of three at the time, would give the sign to say they were not there. So I spoke with him, once in particular that I remember, and was glad for that. I did not know it at the time, but I was glad for the attention and for the emotional contact. He came as close as he could, and actually came pretty close, to making an apology for being a poor father.
I can only imagine the guilt he must have felt at times for the way he treated his family, and the fact that he was a 1000 miles away during all the holiday times our family gathered.
But as I have said, all of this was many, many years ago.
The many years of meditation, my own long term recovery from alcohol and drugs, various efforts with therapy, some high grade successes as a father myself have allowed me to move on.
I know if he were alive now, he and I would really enjoy discussing a wide range of subjects and ideas.
This is a consolation to me, one I am grateful for.
Whatever your experience of your father may be, peace to you this Father’s Day 2014.
For those whose fathers have passed on may the positive memories continues to bloom, and the difficult ones recede.
For those whose fathers still live, may your peace, or your efforts to build peace, bear good fruit.
For those who are fathers now, may you learn from your mistakes and savor your successes.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” Host of MeditationPractice.com