The Mercy of Adult Children

A long while ago, I wrote about — in separate pieces — about my birth mother and father. With the distance of time, we learn mercy, and certainly when we have children of our own — upon whom we practice parenthood with many mistakes and lots of regrets — we come to realize that the broken people who raised us (in my case people whose childhood was full of material and spiritual deprivation) literally did the best they could, and you find solace and understanding in that.

But sometimes you read a tribute to a parent from an adult who has no children — never had his own parenthood to glean from — and it is lovely and full of wisdom and forgiveness.

And sadly, all of us parents need forgiveness for something.

I like this, from The Hermit of Bardstown, who is a real hermit:

My father passed from this life eight years ago on August 21st. Today he would have been seventy-seven years old. In my younger years our relationship was rocky and I can remember as a child wishing he would just die. He never understood me, and as the oldest child I was treated to the harsher side of his personality. Blessed be God that was not the only side of my father. In later years he told me as I left for a medication check for the chronic anxiety I live with even now, “I did this to you.”

This needs context. When my father said this he was a double amputee and I was one of his two main caregivers. He couldn’t understand why I of all his children, the one he’d given the most difficult time, would return home to help my mother take care of him. The answer was/is/and always shall be, I loved him. I love him still. When he said to me, “I did this to you,” I paused knowing that what I said next was a defining moment in our relationship. “Dad, that was thirty years ago, no handbook comes with parenthood, you did what you thought was right. If it matters to you I forgive you.”

The truth is I had forgiven him twenty years before that day, but my father held that guilt in his heart. I learned from my mother that he felt that guilt up to the day he died. That is sorrowful news, for there is much about my father that I inherited that is a blessing: my work ethic, the ability to make friends or at least be friendly with total strangers, his ability of kind when I wrecked a car and he said “I don’t give a $@*# about the car, are you alright?” When the chips were down my father was right there to pull whoever needed it out of their trouble. He loaned money to people he barely knew and he raised almost fourteen teenagers that were not his own. When a friend of my parents died she left her daughter to my parents and he adopted her without a second thought, even to the point of going to court to see to it that her mother’s Will was honored. She became our sister that day, and to this day we all love her as our sister. His firm conviction stated to my mother was “every teenager deserves a place to live, a safe place to sleep and food to eat.” The sad thing is that so many that my parent took in had none of those things.

Read it all. It’s warm and human. Can’t have too much warm and human, here on the ‘nets.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Greta

    Wonderful story. Just a short time ago, I sat with a man who was thinking about coming back to the Catholic Church and to God. His journey was all wrapped around his father. He was the younger son and it was always apparent to him that he would always be second to his brother, but maybe also second to everyone else in his dads life. His dad use to call his mom by her maiden name as if it was not quite up to dad’s family name. From little on, he was added to that side of the family as he never quite made it to his fathers family crest. At first, the child tried to do everything possible to “win” the love he so desired. Later, he tried rebellion.

    When the father was found to be very ill with only 3 months to live, the son went to see the father every chance possible. They had grown apart and words did not come easy. Often they would sit for hours with nothing being said. What did the son want to hear? Probably what we all want to hear from our dad, especially sons. “YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED”

    On his last visit with his dad, the son leaned over and whispered, “I love you dad.” He waited for a couple minutes and then heard the father say, “me too.” It was the last words he heard from his dad and so would have to do for the rest of his life. Because of his inablity to connect with his dad, he had not been able to connect with his Catholic faith where Father was so important. He was still struggling with this, but sensed that he had to overcome his issues so he could find God and peace in his life.

    What this man had wanted to hear was well discussed in the book “The Blessing” by Gary Smalley. I got a copy of the book from the church library and asked him to read it and come back to talk again. Our path to the Father comes with our relationship with His Son. Years before, this entire thing clicked in place as I read this wonderful book. Not being a son, or a dad, but a daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother, I came to realize that we all need to understand this unique dynamic to ever understand how the Catholic Church is set up and why Christ did what he did while on earth. Until Christ, any study of our relationship with God seemed to be quite a mess except for a few. Jesus was the way, the truth, and the light for all who wanted to know God, to find God. I think this is especially true for the male species, but also for us.

    When the man returned, we talked again and with tears in his eyes, he told me that over the last week he had been called to say the Glory Be prayer over and over and over and as he did, he was led to see that his dad had never been given the blessing either. He could not give what he did not possess. His saying “me too” was the absolute best he could give and it was obvious that he had to reach deep within to find those two words. As he looked back, it was almost a groan that came out with those words. It did not mean he did not mean them or did not really want to say them, but getting them out required an exteme effort only love could demand.

    God so loved the world, that He gave His Son…

  • Terrye

    My mother passed away 11 years ago..shortly before she died, she said to me “I’m sorry”…for what I am not sure, a lot of things maybe. But I know that at that moment I most wanted my mother to know that I loved her and she had nothing to be sorry for. Parents are just people.