If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may recall my post from August 2nd of this year called "Better late than never." It's the one where I provided details about my having grown up the child of an alcoholic father. And how I felt like part of my childhood was stolen from me because of my dad's alcoholism. It's also the post where I declared to the world that the 40-plus years of resentment and hatred I felt towards my dad suddenly vanished in a sort of "God moment."
Getting over those feelings was huge for me. As I stated in that post, I never thought it would happen. But it did. And almost three months later, I am still at peace with myself. The anger I carried around for so long doesn't live inside me anymore. In fact--and this is hard for me to admit--love is starting to replace it.
My dad is still having health issues. My mother is doing her best to care for him, but it's getting more and more difficult for her. In fact, about 10 days ago I got an early morning call from my mom telling me that my dad had fallen in his bedroom and couldn't get up. At age 81, my mom couldn't possibly lift my dad up. So I got in my car and rushed over to their apartment to help. (Luckily I live in the same city, only about a mile away.)
When I got to the apartment, I lifted my dad back up to his feet and helped him get into his living room chair. He was very grateful and thanked me over and over again. He also said he didn't know what he'd do without me. And there were a few "I love you"s, too.
I got a strange feeling when I heard my dad tell me he loved me that day. I felt very different than I had any other time I'd heard him say, "I love you." It was like he actually meant it. And I felt that. I hugged my dad, gave him a kiss, and said, "I love you, too." That felt different, too. Because in my heart I felt like I actually meant it.
Flash forward to this past Saturday at 6:00am. My wife and I were both sleeping when the phone ringing startled us and woke us up. I immediately uttered the words, "This can't be good"--which, by the way, is a very common thought for the parent of an addict whenever the phone rings at a strange hour. Fortunately, this call had nothing to do with my son. But unfortunately, it was my mom calling to tell me she needed my help again. My dad had fallen again, this time in the bathroom. My wife and I both got up and got dressed, and we raced over to my parents' place.
When we got there, I jumped out of the car to go help while my wife proceeded to find a parking spot. I arrived to find my dad lying on the bathroom floor, asleep. After waking him up, I lifted him back to his feet, waited for him to wash up and put a robe on, and helped him into his chair.
Once again, my dad was incredibly appreciative. He was almost in tears while he was thanking me and telling me he knows he can always count on me and my wife. And, of course, he told me he loved me again. And I felt it again. And I said, "I love you" to him again. And this time I knew I meant it. Forty-something years later and the love between a son and his father was being reborn.
During the day that day, I cooked up a wonderful chicken and sweet potato dish and my wife and I took the food over to my parents' that evening and ate dinner with them. When I walked in the door, my dad looked at me and said, "My savior!" He and my mom really enjoyed the food; and the company. When my wife and I left I gave my dad a big hug and told him I loved him. Because I think I really do.
Watching my dad get old is incredibly difficult for me. I fear getting old myself, so seeing him struggle and lose his independence is tough. But it would've been even tougher if I hadn't let go of the past. I'm so very thankful I was able to move on.
While driving home that night, I told my wife how much I enjoyed hearing my dad say positive things about me. And how much I liked hearing him say, "I love you."
"I feel like it's real now," I told her. Because I think it is.
I love you, dad.
"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past." --Anne Lamott