For many years I and my Father had a strained and uncomfortable relationship. I didn’t want it to be so, yet it seemed that we could hardly be in the same room and not feel the tension that was often thick, in the air. As a child growing up, I was quiet and sensitive and quite shy. My Father was often loud and critical. He was verbally abusive at times, which caused me to both fear him and want to please him. Mostly I just tried to stay out of his way and not say or do anything to upset him. I often felt growing up that my 2 sisters were criticized less than I and that I was "flawed" in some way. Those feelings stayed with me for many years and only in the past few years have I come to terms with those deep and painful emotions. I have done a lot of therapy in my life, often centering on my self-esteem and inability to get over my childhood hurts. I would often feel that I had forgiven my Father and moved on, yet it was only on the surface. I still felt uncomfortable around my Father and often felt stifled; unable to be myself. Still seeking his Love and approval I found myself hyper sensitive to his words and my need to be accepted by him. I started my journey to true forgiveness toward my Father several years back, at around age 52. At that time I was seeing a gambling counselor for my destructive and devastating gambling addiction. I had been seeing Donleen for almost a year and was struggling with several relapses that brought me to my knees. She felt I needed to be in treatment and so I went to treatment. 7 times in 2 1/2 years I went to gambling treatment! To say I was a mess, is an understatement. That is a whole other story, which I am telling in a book I am writing. For now, I want to get back to my Father and forgiveness. In treatment I wrote volumes about my past and present. My deepest desire was to get well and to stop the self destructive relapses which were not only destroying my life, but deeply affecting the lives of those who loved me; my husband particularly. One assignment was to write a letter to someone who had hurt you and tell them exactly how you felt. No holding back, as this letter would not be sent. We were to reach down, deep into the painful situations and speak out the words that we were unable to say at those times. I started that letter to my father and I wrote, and wrote, until I felt I had gotten out years of pent up feelings, while shedding tears for that shy, fearful child of my past.
A strange and wonderful thing happened after the years of pent up emotion came out. I began to look at the situation as the adult I had become, instead of that vulnerable child that once was. I began to look upon my Father with compassion. I was finally able to see him as the human being who tried to be a good Father, in the only way he knew how. His upbringing was harsh and often difficult for him. Being the only child of a strict, hard to please mother he himself must have often felt inadequate. He was raised without a Father and so even more sought the love and acceptance of his Mother. She herself was raised by a strict and abusive Father, whom her brothers had nothing to do with as they got older. The cycle of abuse had been set into motion many years back and my own Father was a product of it.
As I was able to truly forgive my Father, my relationship with him began to change in ways I never dreamed possible. We speak often by phone and never end a conversation without saying “I love you”. Often we say it more than once in conversation! I visit him regularly and often stay for several hours, enjoying his company and laughing often at his crazy sense of humor! I believe him now when he says he loves me every bit as much as my sisters. I have gotten to know my Father and he has come to know me and I am so grateful for that. I prayed for many years to have the kind of relationship with my Father that I now have.
In ending this very long blog post, I want to say to anyone who has a poor relationship with their Father and feels that it will never be any different, that it can change. It is never too late to reconcile years of distance and painful pasts. It may not happen over night. It took me over 50 years and over 80 years for my Father to come to a place of love and mutual respect. One thing I can say for sure; it was worth all the work and emotional pain to come to this place in time.
Happy Fathers Day Dad. I Love You and I am so grateful to have you as my Father!