Your anger swallows up much of my memories of you. The shadow it throws is big, and I peer past it trying to see the man. You didn’t always get angry, but when you did it made a big impact because it was scary and you didn’t interact with us much normally. I know you tried to contain your anger, and I also know it was a reflection of your depression and self-loathing. This makes it easier to forgive you, but how tragic that you died without ever feeling comfortable and acceptable in your own skin. Daddy, you also died without letting me know that I am loved and acceptable in my skin. Perhaps that is the awful legacy of depression.
I have one memory of calling you daddy when you were living. It was that time you got in a fight with grandma-do you remember? We never talked about it, so I’m not even sure how much you were aware the damage done. It was a painful way of growing up.
I have no idea what the fight was about. Chances are grandma was putting down mom, and therefore you, as I hear that was a common occurrence. I wouldn’t know as grandma was idealized in my childhood. She might have been a crappy mom and mother-in-law, but at the time she was a loving grandma.
Anyway, you guys were fighting and it was getting pretty loud. Somehow a coffee pot was thrown, and I still remember seeing the coffee stains splashed up to the ceiling. I was an adult, probably about 20. The reason I believe this is because mom and I took the younger kids over to the apartment off the old red barn, and I think I was living there. Mom got worried, so she asked me to go check on you both, or I offered, I really don’t remember.
I walked in the door and you and grandma were going after each other vocally. You were equally matched and this is when I figured out where you got your anger. Neither of you acknowledged my presence, if you noticed. Grandma was threatening to take all her medications because she wanted to die (another common occurrence that I was not aware of), so I tried to get in to stop her. You were taunting her and telling her to go ahead. Whether you were calling her bluff or really hoping she would, I don’t know. At any rate, you blocked my entrance and shoved me back. I remember crying, “daddy!”, but mostly I remember how it didn’t register with you. Your face was red and your eyes were wild. You looked out of control and I was afraid, but mostly I felt rejected, and unloved. Again.
I’m ready now, daddy. Ready to tear down the stone wall I built around my heart. I’m ready to feel now. I’m ready to love and accept myself and to accept the love of the people around me. I forgive you for not having the love to give, and not being able to relate to your children. I forgive you for your crappy marriage and the way you treated mom. I forgive you for passing on the legacy of anger and depression. It’s been 4 years since you died, and the shadow is shrinking and I’m seeing more and more frequently the hurt man hiding behind it. With this shrinking comes the freedom to see the nuances of your life, to remember the laughter, the times you and mom were in love, and remember that it wasn’t all darkness.