Is there ever a time in our lives when we stop blaming our parents? Even if it was all their fault?
I posed that question to a group of complaining, blaming women -- if only Mom had been thinner, more supportive, smarter; if only Dad had been home more, talented, had a big fancy boat -- and everyone laughed. Then they became silent. Then they nodded their heads. Then they said OK now what; if the mess of my life isn’t their fault, whose fault is it?
And I started thinking . . . Since it’s Father’s Day, and even if Dad is long gone to that racquetball court in the sky, I could still, metaphorically, let him off the hook, release him into the great blue yonder, maybe stop tripping all over myself with all that pulling and yanking.
Wasn’t he doing the best he could?
Considering he was a South Philly 8th grade graduate who worked killer hours, barely took a day off, and supported a host of family members. Even if I don’t recall ever having a conversation with him until I was in my 30s.
Wait a minute, I’m exaggerating.
I do remember speaking to him when I moved to my first apartment. He was helping me drag odds and ends downtown, furious a single woman would leave home. He said this:
“Do you know about this thing called sex?”
“Yes Dad,” I said. “I know.”
“You’re not gonna do it, right?
His job was done.
But I learned lots from Dad even if it wasn’t inspirational storytelling by my bedside. Even if he never sat me down -- except for that extensive sex talk -- to tell me about the birds and the bees or even the rent and the taxes.
I’m lying again. Once, when I asked at the dinner table, “How much do you make, what does it take to support a family of five?” he said:
“You never have to worry about that. Your husband will.”
Did I tell you he was old school?
Like when he forced me to go to my teenage summer job at the library when I was covered in oozing sun poisoning and couldn’t sit, stand, lie down or wear clothes. “You just go, no matter what” he demanded. Or maybe he said, “At least you’ll end up with a great tan.”
But wait, I love you Dad!
And I do, now that I’m older and truly understand life is hard, life for him was hard, that he loved us and was so proud of us, even if it took him time to show it.
Like 30 or 40 years.
But let’s bury the racquet Dad. No more blame.
You kept me in fuzzy slippers, bragged about me always, eventually learned to laugh with us and talk to us, and even adore us. Especially after Mom died. Totally adore us. Remember how you answered the phone when I called:
“Baby, you made my day.”
You taught us the value of a dollar, the ethic of hard work, the importance of responsibility. You were funny, convincing, you could sell sun to the Equator. You entertained us with the tiny short shorts you wore on the court, a captain’s hat that made no sense, white sneakers that stuck out like vanilla loaves of bread.
Yes, it took you time, it takes all of us too much time to learn what’s important and let go of what isn’t. But you did move on -- you finally got it -- and it’s time I fully, completely, take my own counsel, above yours, so I can move on too.
Wait, I don’t mean up there!
Happy Father’s Day Dad. Thank you for all you did do. I forgive you for all you didn’t. Did you just hear that huge expulsion of breath?
You’re free to go back to your game now.
June 16, 2019