Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.

28 May

My favorite memory of my father is a bright spring morning, where the sunlight was shiny and squeaked when you came to fast around a corner. I was wearing my easter dress, as we had just come back from mass, this being way back in time when retail type people didn’t have to ruin every single day of the week letting other’s buy tchotckes. I can recall the sway of the ruffled hem, and the tiny, almost transparent hat on my head. We were walking down the main street of our tiny little town, just walking.

My father reached back, and up, and pulled me to his shoulders, my dress lifting in the breeze as I giggled. He grunted, let out a quick breath as I settled on his shoulder, and held my hands for a moment before I slapped them on the bare skin of his head.

“Last time babe. Your Dad can’t pull this off anymore.”

But despite his aching back, 45 or so, he let me ride in the sunlight one last time, proud of my new height. And we walked to the river, my mother beside us, quiet.


My father left us for another year today, and I, ungrateful child, couldn’t even rouse myself to say goodbye. I felt an ache at my rudeness, texted my brother to apologize when he landed.

But it’s more than being rude. Every year he arrives a little bit older, with more grey, more wrinkles. He’s not a young man. Ever year he leaves and I worry, will he be back? Will he return? Will the hug, the back slap, the joking nudge be the last time I see him, last time we touch in life?

It’s horribly morbid but I think it every year-how it’s only a matter of time before age robs me of him, steals my one last person, another inch of my family and soul. He’s finally taken to walking with a cane, after being hounded all winter. He’s admitted, to himself, that aging is inevitable.

But I have trouble. In my mind he is still the vibrant, witty and private man that raised me, the man so steadfast in his love and devotion for my mother that I have never once heard a complaint or regret over their life together. A man who did whatever, anything, he could do for me.

I know it’s not all true. I know my father has many faults, faults that have sliced me in hidden places. My father has been, a various times, a drunk. He hasn’t always been the best father, hasn’t always treated me well. But grief shows itself in many forms, and I knew that, even then.

What we have been to each other are companions on a road I wish on no one. With my brother out of the house at university when my mother died, it was merely Dad and I, facing the world, facing the terror. We closed ranks and marched together, one holding the other.

I left home at 16, and knew then, as I know now, that I helped drive him to drinking. I’ll never forgive myself for that.  What was a problem we might have resolved exploded, and home was never home again. He couldn’ t be the same father to me anymore.

But we had seen the same jaded sunsets, written the thank you message for the paper after the funeral together, dealt with my period and posters of Corey Haim. We had been there, in the echoing no-man’s land of after, and had found a tenuous allowance. We understood.

When he leaves, I feel it. I practice for that last time, for the after again, the place without him, where only memory slips through my hands, instead of advice and wisdom, sadness and anger. I practice for imagining myself as an orphan, alone without the guidance of either parent. I imagine the loneliness, the wiped clean whiteness of it all, glimmering.


I’ve watched my father these few months, enjoying his granddaughters, their laughter, their reactions, their intelligence. I want so desperately for my mother to see him like this, unguarded, interested, mischievious, in love with the daughters of his daughters.

They take him for granted now, knowing he’ll be there. Tomorrow they’ll wake up and realize the bed really is empty, and the basement strangely quiet.

They’ll know then.

13 Responses to “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

  1. Missy May 28, 2009 at 3:10 am #

    Beautiful post.

  2. Hannah May 28, 2009 at 6:23 am #

    Does your dad read your blog? I hope so – what a loving tribute to a complicated but strong father / daughter bond.

  3. Den May 28, 2009 at 7:51 am #

    Hey lovely post. It really speaks to me in a simple and earnest way. As I’m sure it must also speak to many others. Good writing.

    My father died when I was 25. I’d been living on the other side of the country for two years when he passed. I was back and forwards between the two cities whilst he was sick but it never really kicked in that this was going to be for ever. I had this half formed idea in the back of my mind that subtly suggested itself to me…that we’d still get some time together…sometime….that we’d get to speak to each other candidly, like adults. Exchange mysteries. Within 10 months he was gone. My most profound memory of that morning is my Mum coming in to wake me up at 3am. Telling me the hospital had rung. I leapt out of bed, my head all foggy with sleep, thought to myself ‘Geez I better hurry and get down to the hospital before he’s gone…so much to say if it’s going to be the last time. By the time we got to the hospital I’d woken up to the finality of the situation.

  4. Jennifer May 28, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    So true the title is. I had issues of abandonment and neglect from my father. When I was in my 20’s and had a depressive episode, the psychologist basically told me that I needed to either move on without him in my life, or forgive and forget. I forgave. I won’t forget though. I suppose that will always stand in my way. I am ever so conscious of the past.

  5. de May 28, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    outstanding post, beautifully written.

  6. Helen May 28, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    This beautiful post makes me so sad, because it makes me wonder: then what is the point of parenthood?

    I don’t want to bring new human beings into the world, just to have them judge me. I get judged enough by others as it is. The love of kids’ early years isn’t enough to sustain their parents through the heartache that follows, when the kids pull away and criticize them, judge them as you point out, and only on occasion forgive them.

    Meanwhile we pay through the nose for them, we sacrifice our freedom and our jobs and our sleep and our health and our comfort for them… just to have more judgment heaped upon us? What exactly is the point of all of this?

  7. thordora May 28, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Judgement is normal, part of living. And part of growing up, from child to adult, is accepting what has happened. Not every parent is perfect-they’re human, and life happens.

    I’ve always tried very hard to not judge my father-not when he told me he wished he could give me away to save money, not when he drunkenly peed on my bedroom door, not when he wasn’t there. Because there were so many times when he was there, waiting, clapping, just there. And he hurts too, as an adult, as a human, as a man.

    Ultimately it’s part of growing up. Either WE can learn to accept and forgive, or we can’t. It’s part of becoming our own people.

  8. bromac May 28, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    The point of having children is to experience unconditional love and to give them what you did not have, whether through those parents you have judged (normal) or other, more superficial things you did not have as a child.

    A child may judge (teen years) but if you’re essentially a good person and a good parent the majority of the time, as they grow in self-awareness, they will understand why you made the decisions you did.

    No one is perfect and the best we can hope for is to instill that self-acceptance and acceptance of others into our children.

  9. Maggie, dammit May 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Gorgeous, hon. Gorgeous.

  10. sweetsalty kate May 28, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    My god, thor, you are a beautiful writer and soul.

  11. angharad May 29, 2009 at 1:39 am #

    this has given me a fair bit of food for thought, in quite a lot of ways. you write so honestly and clearly.

  12. Hannah May 29, 2009 at 5:57 am #

    Me again, chiming in to say your reply to Helen is perfect. I’ve got to chain Michael to a chair and make him read it several times. He refuses to forgive either of his parents for mistakes they made when he was a child. It taints his life and keeps him from being the best man and father he can be.

    The process of first worshipping, then judging, and finally learning how to relate to our parents as people rather than just mom and dad is how we grow. Baby birds get thrown out of the nest; it might be kinder, and it’s certainly quicker.

    If you’ve done your job as a parent, even with the mistakes we all will make, your kids will come back to you when they are grown. That relationship can be beautiful.

  13. farhzana dawood January 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Beautifully written

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