Mar 10 2013 | 19 Comments
Life isn’t all trips and work, make-up and doctor tips and books I like to read. As anyone who follows this blog knows I do write about the dysfunctional part of my family from time to time.
My mother feels I’m airing dirty laundry. I think I’m allowing all sides of my life to be seen and the result has been (for the most part) people who also have family problems, of which there are legions, do not feel so alone.
The last place we left off in my little paternal family drama was in October when my father had extended an invitation to me to have dinner with him and my mother.
My parents divorced when I was very young. I have had a thorny on again off again relationship with father. I have had an unorthodox but close relationship with my mother that skidded off the rails for quite a few years but is happily now back on track.
The relationship between my mother and father has been beyond contentious for decades. So much so it made War of the Roses look like Love Story. But, somehow in their old age they have mended their smashed fences and have become close friends.
So, back in October my father briefly held out an olive branch and invited me to join he and my mother for dinner. Despite the fact after he threw me out of his house for being fifteen minutes late, I swore I would never speak to him again; I decided life indeed was too short. If my parents could get along at this point there was no reason my dad and I couldn’t’ take a seventy- fifth stab at it. And truth be told at fifty-four it would be nice to experience two parents for as many years as I can. That is something I would like. That is something I have missed out on.
So, I said fine. I accepted the dinner invitation. That was my way of saying I forgive you. Let us move forward in peace.
Though he decided that was not good enough he needed a formal apology.
I refused. I felt I had done nothing wrong, other than write a blog about the night he threw me out. It was fierce. It was unflattering. It was the truth. I meant every word of it. However it did not mean I could not move ahead and put it behind me.
He was adamant, well, not entirely, he likes to play games. He does this thing where he says I have to think about it. He likes to leave me dangling like a monkey on a string that he gets to yank when he’s good and ready.
So, I let him have his power play. After a day or two of mulling it over, he was certain, no apology – no dinner. I was just as entrenched in my position; my showing up was apology enough.
So, the dinner never happened.
Time moved forward as it tends to do. My mother and father somehow only became closer. And to be brutally honest, I felt like the total outsider of a relationship that I deserve to be included in. I have felt like a bit of an outsider my whole life, it’s my way, but this really stung. They had been far worse to each other than I have been to them, somehow he could forgive her, but not me.
A few weeks before Christmas I talked to my mother about the situation and asked what she thought I should do. She said “Apologize. Just do it. That way he can come to our Christmas party. We can all get along.” I did it for her as much as myself.
Holding on to a false sense of pride, (and isn’t much of pride a false sense) seemed less important than for once in fifty-four years getting along with both my parents while they got along with each other. I wanted to experience a version of that dynamic before it was too late.
OK, I didn’t think I did anything wrong. But I’m big enough. I can muster it up and say sorry. I can say I’m sorry if my actions hurt you in any way. Which I’m sure they did. I can say it without dredging up all the that came before. I can just say, hey, life is short. I’m sorry if I caused you any pain. You are my father and it would be nice if we could live these years in peace and harmony. And that is exactly what I did.
I not only did it. I had it mailed it overnight.
And guess what? I didn’t hear from him right away. In fact I didn’t hear from him for several days. At which point, I started getting a little nervous, it looked like he might reject it.
In the end he refused me. He would not accept my apology. He would not even respond to my letter and tell me why. He did it through the grapevine after letting me dangle in wonderville for many days. An eighty-five year old man would rather be right in his own mind than have peace with his daughter in the last years of his life.
Do I feel like a schmuck for doing it? I did at first: A big one.
But the truth is an apology or an amend is something you do because it i the right thing to do. You must do it with no hopes or expectations of how the recipient will respond. You do it with as much conviction as the situation allows. You stand by it and you walk away with your head high, perhaps your heart a bit heavy for a spell, but you always know you did the right thing. And in the end you are the one you have to live with.