I posted this on my Facebook page for Father’s Day this year, and wanted to quote it here because it says so much of what I am learning during this quest.
I’m very blessed in this respect relative to my father: Before he died, I confronted him with his failures. I got downright ugly, castigating him for what he did and what he failed to do. I used mean, ugly words to describe the considerable pain that he inflicted on his wife and eight children. I condemned him, one on one, face to face. And then, with a quiet air, head bowed, he apologized. He said he was sorry. And I forgave him. That happened many years ago (he died in 1991) and it didn’t heal me much at the time. But in the past several years, when my heart was finally open to healing, that event became a part of the process by which I am slowly but surely coming to terms with all that has shaped me. So: For this reason, I feel that I am blessed. Did my Dad “mean it” when he apologized? Who knows. But I meant it when I forgave him. I know that now.
Such a journey this is! And so much of it has been lit by lightening. Today I am facing my failures and the stark fact that I have not forgiven myself for failing. Flash! Crash! I am reminded of the closing lines in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, spoken by a brother to his sister:
“Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest person; anything – anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura; and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).
I am more faithful to my broken self than I intended to be. . . I try to leave myself behind. . . And yet, I am always reminded. A somewhat imperfect metaphor but it resonates for me. Perhaps it is because Mr. Williams and I share a home town. . . who knows. . .Perhaps I identify with both Laura and Tom.
I ask myself: If I can forgive my father all of his failures, how can I not forgive myself?
Nothing will come of my running; I must make my peace with the self whom I have left behind in my quest to forget. But to do that, I must turn back, stop running away, and confront my broken self. I must hold her and say, I forgive you . . . Can you forgive me?
A difficult task, but unlike Tom, I am not complaining. As painful as it might be, I expect the final result to be either an abysmal failure, or a wild unbridled success. I am hoping for the latter.