Since the age of seven, my father has been in and out of my life. He has threatened suicide, cried for hours, and made me afraid, angry, and confused. He has proven he can be stable and sober, but it is only a matter of years or even days before his destructive behaviors resurface. He has repeatedly broken my heart.
He is also the person I love the most. Every morning I wake up and I picture his face; I blow him a quick air kiss before starting the routine of my day. There are sometimes lapses of several months when I don’t see or hear from him, but he is never far from my mind or my heart. And though it hurts, I am always waiting with open arms for him when he comes back.
Many of my family members disagree with how I handle myself time after time. I continue to receive his calls from jail, or pay for the two of us to go out to lunch when he’s down on his luck. Most of my relatives are bitter, and believe the damages he’s done are irreconcilable and he doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. While I understand their concern, I believe that forgiveness is the best and only gift I can offer my father.
About a year and a half ago, my father drank and drugged himself into a coma. He was in an Intensive Care unit, and I don’t think I was the only one who thought he might die. After this particularly nasty episode my dad called me on the phone. I was reluctant to take the call as I will still shocked and wary, but I did. Pointless and awkward chitchat was exchanged and I was ready to say good-bye, when he spoke. “Janie”, he breathed into the receiver, “I don’t know why you let me come back or why you still love me, but what I do know is that I’m so thankful you do.”
I was honestly speechless. After years of allowing him to devastate my world and still remain in my life, it had never occurred to me that I had a choice. But that one sentence made it clear to me that in doing what I had thought necessary, I was providing my father with a gift. No matter how many times he hit bottom, or couldn’t see a way out, he knew that he had a daughter who loved him as fiercely as she ever had and would never give up on him.
I believe that forgiveness is both the best and most seldom given gift one can bestow upon another. It requires strength and courage of the giver, and asks nothing in return. By gifting forgiveness, there is no guarantee that the recipient feels remorse or will never do wrong again. It’s not easy or natural, and in many cases it may not even seem like the right action. But I believe that no one is perfect, and when the inevitable happens, forgiveness is all that is required.
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