Writing About My Father, Day 25
Someone said the other day that the fact I still have a relationship with my father shows I’ve forgiven him. Is that all forgiveness is—showing up despite the anger, despite how hollow and foreign “I forgive you” feels on your tongue? Is forgiveness, then, not a type of anesthesia? Does it have more in common with Tylenol than with morphine, the wound’s still in full bloom, you just feel it a little less? It would be better, perhaps, if forgiveness worked like amnesia, but if we are the sum total of our wounds, that is, if what we name “good” in ourselves is the same fruit as what we name “bad,” erupting from the same anger, the same grief and absence, then to want forgiveness to be amnesia is to undo not just part of but all of ourselves. What I have with my father doesn’t feel like forgiveness, but maybe I am just not wise enough to see it. I still expect to feel forgiveness, when it is a thing out of reach of the senses. Perhaps forgiveness is reading through dozens of Father’s Day cards to find the most innocuous one, that doesn’t lie but merely acknowledges. Perhaps forgiveness is thinking about what to get my father for Christmas when I know the small check I may get is neither guaranteed nor given ungrudgingly. Perhaps forgiveness is merely grace and courage—to bear the wound, to risk the hurts you know will come again.