A couple of days ago I went to visit my father. It was a big deal for me because twenty years have passed since he told me to butt out of his life, and I thought it might be time to try to butt back in again. I traveled back east for a high school reunion and hoped for family reunion too, something I have dreamed about for many years.
When I was little, I had prolific nightmares, and out of fright, I would wake myself up. But sometimes the nightmares weren’t dreams—they were real life, and there was no waking up.
Twenty plus years ago I withdrew to evaluate and break some vicious family patterns. Especially regarding my dad. A child needs safe daddy arms. I had been violated instead. I took several years to process, fully feel the pain and grieve, but I forgave and re-learned how to live with joy and freedom from fear. I refused to continue any familiar crippling conduct with my children or grandchildren.
Over the years I have been welcomed by families, brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and life-long friends who have loved the damage right out of me. God has tenderly Fathered me, and these people that he placed in my path have been above and beyond the safe haven I longed for, more than making up for any loss.
I always carried a measure of hope that one day my dad and I could talk about it and move forward together in a fresh, healed relationship. I repeatedly assured my parents that I loved and forgave them. But they were not willing to discuss the family issues or make changes back then. My mother died several years ago in the long, uninterrupted silence between us.
When I saw my dad the other day—I didn’t know what to expect—he looked so old. My heart melted. After all those years of distance—I took his hand and still loved him, despite everything.
He now has Alzheimer’s. I didn’t know. Our conversation went like this:
Dad: “I’m Ed. Who are you?”
Me: “I’m Merry.”
Dad: “Have we known each other very long?”
Dad: “How long has it been since we have been together?”
Me: “Twenty years.”
Dad: “That is a long time. I’m sorry I don’t remember. Nice to meet you. Please come back again soon.”
The goofy side of him popped up here and there during our visit, but the angry and scary man I remembered was no longer present. As I kissed his cheek and wished him a good nap, I choked back the shock and the burning tears as my heart agonized, “Dad! This is not what how it is supposed to go! Twenty years ago, you refused to talk about it, and now you can’t even remember it! What’s a girl supposed to do now?”
So many things unsaid. I wanted him to see that I’m okay. I wanted him to know his grandchildren. I told him his grandson got married last weekend. I showed him pictures that were met with blank stares.
It is not the lifescript I would have chosen, but it is the one I get to live out anyway. I have done my best to walk wisely so that I would have no regrets about my choices, but I do wonder about the timing of it all. The whole situation is in God’s hands, thankfully.
Dad, I’m sorry we have missed out on so much together. I wish things could have been different. May God’s safe-haven arms securely hold you close, as you are in a state I know is not pleasant for you, and may He speak the comfort into your spirit that cannot be done now by your loved ones. Maybe somehow we can meet each other in a better place in our dreams and in the future land of no more tears or pain. Love!