To say that my biological father and I had a strained relationship would be putting it mildly. My parents divorced when I was 2. My mom remarried when I was 3, and my step father was my Dad. However, my little brother and I saw our biological father every other weekend. As a little kid, I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I just always felt that my father was a liar, and that he didn’t really care about me, and I was angry. I carried that anger into my adulthood. I despised my father for not caring enough to remember my birthday. I would receive a card or text from him a day or two late, and it would infuriate me. How could he not remember the day his first child was born? On my wedding day, my father walked into the room and upon seeing me in my wedding dress, moments before I was to be married, his words were, “How do I look in my suit?” I just smiled and said, “Great, Dad.” When he said things like this, I would feel full of rage that this man was so oblivious to anything other than himself.
For the last several years I guess you could say my brother and I were just sort of waiting to get the phone call about my father. He’d never taken care of his health, and when we had a rare visit it was obvious he wasn’t taking very good care of himself. But when I got the text from my father’s roommate saying that he was in the hospital, it still knocked the wind out of me. I was in shock and could not sleep that night. I’d tried to forgive my father so many times over the years. I kept trying to forgive all the times he’d hurt me, and then I’d interact with him and I would continue to be hurt by him. Why? I realized it was because I was not letting go of those expectations that he could be anything different! I kept wanting more than he was capable of giving. And I kept feeling the pain of not having him meet my vision of who he should be. That night everything in me was saying I needed to go see my father.
The next morning my step dad (who has been my Dad of the heart my whole life – always there for me, would do anything for me) drove me for three hours to the hospital to see my father. I went into the ICU. There he was, with the oxygen mask taking over most of his face, forcing air into his lungs, IV’s, machines beeping…but I was relieved that he didn’t look as bad as I thought he would. My father’s eyes grew huge when he saw me walk in. I went over and put my arms around him. He started to sob. I told him it was okay. I looked into his eyes and said that I had come to tell him I loved him, and I forgave him. That I forgave him for all the past hurt, and that I accepted him for who he was. It was difficult to understand him through the mask and machines beeping, but the words I heard him say were, “I’m sorry,” “I want us all to get together,” “Thank you,” and “I love you sweetheart.”
On the drive home it was incredible the amount of weight I felt had fallen off my shoulders. As it turned out, I was actually the last person that my father spoke to. He went into a coma shortly after I left, and passed away 8 days later. I am at peace knowing I was able to connect with him before he left this world, and that I received the true gift of being able to forgive and be forgiven.