It’s frightening to realize you don’t know your parents at all. I spent a lot of my childhood thinking that the people I called my parents were really my parents. It wasn’t until my sister, who is seven years older than me, went to college that I realized I didn’t know my parents.
My parents, despite the circumstances, did try to be good parents. They taught my sister and me to be strong, independent women. They taught us to persevere, to go to school, to seek knowledge and to chase our educations instead of running from them. My parents tried very hard to make sure my sister and I turned into intelligent individuals, and it worked. But my parents accomplished this through poor example more than anything. By showing us what not to do they showed us how to lead our own lives.
For most of the nineties my parents self-medicated themselves. I can remember coming home to find my mom still in bed, and my dad home from the office early, already drinking, with no food in the house to speak of. We didn’t really have parents. We lived with them, we went out with them every now and then, but they weren’t really our parents. They were strangers who hugged us and kissed us but then disappeared into a back bedroom or out into the garage and didn’t come out again for hours. My parents neglected us, but when it comes down to it, I forgive them for it.
I forgive them for leaving me alone, for leaving my sister to care for me. I forgive my mother for taking too many painkillers and freaking out over the smallest thing afterward. I forgive my father for drinking too much and never getting groceries, for never taking my mother to get help. I forgive them because in the end we all came out okay. My parents are healthy now. My sister and I are both strong women. And I believe that forgiving my parents makes me stronger. I believe that holding a grudge for having neglected us, for resenting them for not doing more to get their act together, would help no one. I believe forgiveness heals, both the person forgiving and the person being forgiven.
If I couldn’t forgive, I wouldn’t know my mother and father the way I do now that they’ve gotten help. If I couldn’t forgive them, they wouldn’t be able to forgive themselves.
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