Memory of My Father

> How do we forgive our fathers?

By realizing that there's nothing to forgive... or forget.

My father yet lives, but he is not exactly a loving man, nor a very good rolemodel. He is a hard, harsh man, yet not without wit or humor. He came into life without a father and grew up separated from his mother, who was living and working in NYC and couldn't keep him. Life seems to have short-changed him in many ways, but that's no excuse for his generally feckless ways. I see my rage there, in him. Perhaps it's genetics, or maybe environment. My parents' stormy marriage lasted through all manner of heated, hateful exchanges. The unstable truce which was their existence for the last decade of her life was at times unbearable to behold. Still, they clung to whatever little love or whatever it was. Though he didn't seem to grasp that she was dying, all the way up to her very last moments, I saw that her passing did touch him, perhaps in spite of himself.

As ungentle and ignoble as my father is, he is intelligent and capable. He is often generous with his time and abilities with both friend and stranger alike. Though he has strength and determination, he has never fully applied himself or chased big dreams. Yet he can do things, whether to fix a car or build a house or build hydraulic devices for splitting logs or tearing apart pallets, my dad can make things electrical or mechanical work. He can wield implements unpowered and powered, and do so with great facility.

And he tasked me with the same, first as a boy and then as a young man. I came to lean into the physical labor as a celebration of life and my ability to *do*, and I watched with excitement and even a bit of awe as things, bits and pieces of wood, metal and wire, were wrought into interesting new and functional forms. I think that it must indeed be true that even the world could be moved with the proper lever. It comes down to understanding how things work -- the what and the why.

My father never nutured me in the usual sense, being much more verbally abusive than anything else. He rarely struck me physically, but the emotional anguish was greatly disturbing at times. But he has showed me a great many things, if of a more base nature. My dad has been very helpful to me, and is generous in his own way, crusty salt that he is.

Is any father ever truly completely above all reproach? Is anyone?

It's not important, and I don't truly ask the question. For to me, the only one I can judge is myself, and I do judge things in that context alone. As to others, and especially my father, I must merely accept them for who and what they are, and do so in love.

For me it's not about forgive and forget, but about acceptance. Not that it's so easy as all that, mind you. As a younger man, I left home while not on good terms with my father. It took years for the bitterness to dissipate, and for us both to mellow a bit. I'm glad we finally found a path back from that purgatory. I'm glad that I figured out that I didn't need to forgive or forget, nor did he. You just move on, as each moment is a new chance at life. And I take that chance, as the potential reward seems well worth the risk.

Just my take on it, of course. Each must find a way to deal with the past and the present, the pain and loss and joy and gain. I choose to accept my father imperfect and cherish the life that is he, and I am grateful that he has imparted much to me either directly or by example, both of how to be as well as how not to be. A blessing, however mixed.

Just wandering the meandering halls of my nous,

© copyright, 1999, Scott Bowling
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