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.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!