Reflections on December 31sth

Reflections on December 31sth

My Father’s Birthday

Every year at this time, I can’t help thinking about my father. Today is his birthday and as I reflect on childhood memories, I remember a man who worked hard and in his own way, loved his family.

There is a large gap between the father I had as a child and the father I knew after my 12th birthday. For years, I’ve tried to reconcile the two. The father I knew as a child, though harsh at times, could also show love if you recognized it for what it was. It was always in the little things. We were poor when it came to money, but every year he made sure I got that one Christmas present I picked out of the Sears Christmas Catalog.

And then, there was the year I wanted to learn to ride a horse. Every week he made sure I’d get my fifty cent allowance to take riding lessons down the road from our house. There was also the Saturday that the farms in the local area were doing an Open House for the elementary school kids.

My father had been working that day and had forgotten he said he would take me. So, when he came home, exhausted from working his construction job all week, he drove the miles and miles to take me to an Open House at a horse farm. We were too late for the Open House and everyone was gone, but I wanted so badly to see the horses. So, badly, that my father asked the owners if I could just walk inside the Stables and see them. Reluctantly, they agreed.

When I was eleven, my parents separated and shortly after my twelve birthday, my father remarried. My stepmother and I never got along and what little my father and I had in the way of a relationship, she all but destroyed. For decades, I’ve blamed my father for his betrayal and for always siding with her. But as I sit here writing this I can’t help thinking about my father’s dementia which showed so much in his later years…

Maybe I want so badly to give him the shadow of a doubt, or maybe, I can recall a man so beaten down by his personal demons that this woman, his “Ferny,” became his lifeline, his last chance at the happiness that had evaded him most of his life.

And, maybe, I can even forgive him…

But then, I remember, her reading my diary and my father kicking me in the lower back leaving permanent damage after ordering me to retrieve the diary from the table. And, then, I think, “No, the man who had shown those bright sparks of love would never have done that.”

And so, I sit here with tears streaming down my face and realize I cannot change what happened. I cannot erase the years of abuse. But for my sake, I must forgive my father, and that, for me, is the hardest thing I could ever do. And I will, not for the man who was my father, but for me.


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