I am mostly me, but bits of others people are mixed in. For some habits and tendencies I know exactly who I intentionally copied them from. Then there are those I picked things up from simply being around others; some good, some not.
What did I get from my Father? I look a lot like him and stand sometimes like he often did. He was a womanizer and with the best of intentions to be otherwise, I found myself in adult life following in his steps to a point. However, how he made a mess of his life went far deeper. In his late 40’s and 50’s came a slow suicide with alcohol and hard drugs. The addictions were picked up trying to be “cool” with 20-something women he liked to have around. He was attracted to truly “bad girls” who were a perfect fit his addictions. Dad got sober and straight the last year and a half of his life, but I never spoke to him during that time. He died at an Alcohol Anonymous meeting from a heart attack. I don’t hold anything against my Father any more. I actually feel sorry for him.
Then there is my Mother who taught me how to be truly selfish simply from watching her behavior. She was eighteen when I was born and not even 21 when my brother came along. By twenty-five my Father got another woman pregnant and left to be with her. Mom went kind of crazy after that and became highly self-absorbed. She was attractive and “easy” with a steady flow of men. From her antics I saw and heard way more about sex than any 8-year-old kid should be exposed to. She was completely oblivious to how she was screwing up her children. Like pets one might keep, she saw that we didn’t go hungry, had a dry place to sleep and went to school. Past that my Brother and I took care of each other but grew up starved for parental affection. My Mother is still alive but to my knowledge has never admitted any regrets. I have not spoken to her in 20 years and it’s a toss-up if I ever will. I pity my Mother and the mess she made of her life, but forgave her a long time ago (mostly anyway).
Forgiving our parents is a core task of adulthood, and one of the most crucial kinds of forgiveness. We see our parents in our mates, in our friends, in our bosses, even in our children. When we’ve felt rejected by a parent and have remained in that state, we will inevitably feel rejected by these important others as well.
The sins of parents are among the most difficult to forgive. We expect the world of them, and we do not wish to lower our expectations. Decade after decade, we hold out the hope, often unconsciously, that they will finally do right by us. We want them to own up to all their misdeeds, to apologize, to make heartfelt pleas for our forgiveness.
Getting to a forgiving place, finding the forgiving self inside us, is a long and complicated journey. We have to be ready to forgive. We have to want to forgive. The deeper the wound, the more difficult the process—which makes forgiving parents especially hard. But when we get there, the forgiveness we achieve will be a forgiveness worth having. From the May 2003 issue of “O”, the Oprah Magazine
For my own sanity, I forgave both my parents long ago. I forgave my Father for abandoning us and my Mother for not even trying to protecting my Brother and I from the evil stepfather she brought into our lives. I am grateful to have found some peace and light within memories that once were filled with darkness and fear.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.