My father died when I was a teenager; he abandoned me long before that. Yet, there are times when I have very vivid dreams about him. He is always so alive in my dreams. So alive that come morning when I wake up I mourn his death all over again.
I didn't know him that well. My memories of him are very scattered. When I heard he had died my first response was to run to my room and frantically search for any pictures and letter I had from him. There weren't many. I suppose I wanted to hold those pictures and letters close because I had so few actual memories to hold.
I remember one of my last memories was playing Parcheesi with him and my grandmother. He had accidently put on her glasses and when he realized it he started laughing. I remember them laughing together, a moment of peace. In fact I snapped a picture from that moment, he has such a content smile on his face. I try to remember that smile and that moment.
I have felt so many things about him, and about his death and his earlier abandonment when I was a much younger child. Anger, sadness, loneliness, love, hate, forgiveness, pity, compassion. confusion, grief, despair, understanding, and on and on. It is a journey, one I will never embark from, this ever searching for a place of peace as it relates to my feelings about my father. I often feel angry that my father chose to leave me and for so many years I struggled with deep insecurities and lack of self-confidence. It took a lot of time, and much love from friends and family, to travel through those deep waters. Most of all, I just wanted him to want me. I wanted "me" to be enough. I wanted to be able to scare away the demons he struggled with and the fears and darkness he raced from so constantly.
I wasn't enough and that wasn't my job, because it wasn't about me. It had nothing to do with how much he loved me (or didn't love me). But I was young and didn't know that, and that abandonment affected me in deep ways. Now I understand that more, now that I am an adult.
I look at my littlest girls. There are some things about their story that I resonate with in a deeper way. It wasn't about them, yet they will (mis)understand that it was only about and because of them. Because we are all naturally ego-centric when we are young. It is all about us. If only I could wrap my arms around them and protect them from this future pain.
But it is a gift too. They will know their story, they will know who they are because they will know their past. I know their family. I have held their grandfather's hands in mine and reassured him wordlessly that I will love them, protect them, and be there for them for as long as I can. Even though there is pain, I would never take that from them. Even though there is pain in my own story I would never wish my father away. Because, despite the ways he hurt me and his poor choices, he was my father and will always be a part of me. I could never wish him away because it would be like trying to cut out a piece of myself. It would hurt me more than it would help me. Learning how to love someone, even when they have hurt you, is a life lesson I will treasure and hold close. Learning to forgive, finding compassion and peace, is something I will always treasure.
We have choices when we share our stories of the past with our children. We have choices to share judgments along with those stories. We have choices about how we talk about our children's countries. A long time ago, my mom had choices about how she would tell me about my dad. She chose the best way. She told me the truth without condemnation and judgment. She told me the things she loved about him and the things that were hard. She let his actions speak for themselves, and tried to help us find paths of forgiveness and love. She helped me see the beauty in the pain. She helped me transform struggling into something that is precious and strong. She remembered that if she cut down my dad, she was cutting me down too.
When we talk in a condemning negative way about our children's country, we talk in a condemning negative way about our children. When we make assumptions about our children's families that are negative and harsh, we tell our children that they are bad. When know nothing about our children's situations before they came to live with us and then assign blame, we make them feel even worse about themselves. When we place judgment on a culture we don't understand, we place judgment on our children who will always be a part of that culture and ethnicity. Our words are critical. We have choices to tear down or build up. I want to remember the lessons I have learned and build up. And I will always be ever grateful I know about my past, the good and bad. Knowing the truth gave me power to confront the past and to move forward, it gave me the freedom to allow the pain to give me strength to find forgiveness, love, and peace.