Yesterday I called my Mom for her birthday. While we talked I began to feel uneasy. She turned 76 years old yesterday and I hardly ever see her. I send her some photos from time to time, and she was telling me how proud she is of me. She told me how beautiful I look, and how healthy, and as she spoke I could hear her starting to cry. She just wants to reach through the picture and give me a hug, she says, because she is just so proud of how far I have come.
Then my father got on the phone. Conversations with him are generally one-sided: he asks about me but before I can answer he starts talking about how he walked the dog 3 times today, or did 50 pushups, or some other random, superficial discussion. Yesterday he asked about me and listened. He was speaking clearly and forming coherent sentences, something he hasn’t done in a long time. Usually talking to him is frustrating at best, infuriating at worst, and always somewhat irritating. Yesterday I felt at peace talking to him. He too told me how proud he is of me, and that I should remember to stay strong and keep on the right path. He said that life is full of struggles, but that I should never give up. He too started to cry, though I am not sure why.
I hung up the phone and went outside for a while. As I sat listening to the birds, an overwhelming feeling of sadness came over me and I started to cry. I have tried, though admittedly not very hard, to forgive my parents for their transgressions. I have tried to forgive my father for being a drunken, shitty man and forgive my mother for staying with him, thereby forcing me to grow up in an awful environment. Yesterday, in a very difficult realization, I discovered that I am so tired of being angry. The thing is, I can no longer blame my parents for my life. I am not living up to my potential, I am still unhealthy at times, I am still angry….but the responsibility for all this falls on me. I am a human being, and try my best, but more times than not I come up short of my own (and everyone else’s) expectations. I am not a great communicator, I can be self-absorbed in my illness and it’s side effects, and I can simply be difficult to deal with and hard to pin down. But despite all these shortcomings, I care. I love my friends and family with such intensity, and want nothing but the best for them.
So is it possible that my parents love me that much- though it didn’t always seem to be the case? Is it possible that just because they don’t live up to my expectations, they are still doing their best? I decided that yes, these things are possible and most likely true. The truth is, I relate to my father very well because we have a similar illness. Sometimes I can hear in his voice the sadness and anxiety that come with knowing what a mess you’ve made of your own life and everyone else’s. It is a horrible feeling, and it usually causes you to fall deeper into the illness- a way to try to outrun the guilt and the shame. I’ve been there, just about everyday. I also know what it’s like to love like my mother does. She saw good in a man who has destroyed every relationship in his life. She stayed with him through all of it, because she saw those little glimpses of good. She is loyal- not weak, like I always called her.
Because I can no longer be angry, and because I can no longer justify holding grudges against people who did their best with what they had, I forgave my parents. I don’t want to spend the last few years with them feeling resentful, holding my problems up in front of them and saying “See what you’ve done??” I am simply in no position to judge. The best I can do is try my hardest to avoid doing the things they did, so I don’t damage myself or my loved ones. I remember one of the times my father went to rehab, stopping at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast before dropping him off at the facility. He sat across from me, picking at a bagel, eyes on the table, looking so ashamed. I have been there, sitting across from any number of people I love, feeling so ashamed that I can’t even look at them. It doesn’t make actions right, and it doesn’t erase things that have happened, but it does me good to forgive. I want peace, and I want my parents to finally find peace. So I forgive them.