Vanessa - Jacksonville, Florida
Entered on February 25, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

Forgiveness. I had to learn it the hard way. You can’t quite describe that feeling until you experience it. A sense of relief is the best way that I can describe it, like you’ve been carrying a heavy boulder on your shoulders for so long and now it’s just simply gone. I hated my father ever since my mother and he got divorced when I was eight. She left him for many reasons, one of them being that he was an alcoholic. She left from Brazil and brought my brother and me to America. I blamed my father for splitting up our family, for my brother leaving the US and going back to Brazil, and for having a new stepfather. I hated visiting him in Brazil, but I did it, every year. I mean, what little girl wants to fly ten hours by herself to visit her drunken father, taking her to the local bars every night? By the time I was a teenager, I stopped calling and visiting. I stopped caring, but I still hated him. My mother said he had a disease, that he couldn’t help it. Yea right, I thought, you choose to be an alcoholic. And I hated him more for choosing it.

But all that changed the summer I turned 17. I was going through self destructive behaviors like drinking, drugs and random guys. I went to visit my father in Brazil with my brother and the minute I saw him at the airport all that hatred that had been building up for the past nine years just faded away. He looked like he was literally dying. He cried when he saw his daughter all grown up, and I cried inside seeing my father, a once very handsome man, now looking so sickly, so skinny, and half dead. My brother and I spent the week with him. He was dying from dehydration, drinking water as much as he could. When we went to a family reunion on a Sunday, he had to bring a bottle of vodka with him just to get through the day. Everyone knew he was already gone; there was no helping him now. We all knew, yet no one said anything. We didn’t have to.

I left my father for the last time and I never saw him again. He died two months later from hepatitis. He was ninety pounds in the hospital bed. I never got a chance to speak with him before he died and my mother didn’t let me go to his funeral. I think everyday about all the things I miss about having a father and wish that I hadn’t spent nine years hating a man that really did have a disease. I sure did learn forgiveness the hard way, and I give my father all the credit for teaching me what I think is the most valuable life lesson I have ever learned.