“I can understand him so much more now as an adult but as a child it was very hurtful.”
Edited by Rebecca Werner.
Transcript for Because I Can Forgive
So my mom and my birth father divorced when I was a baby. My birth father came back from Vietnam with a severe case of PTSD and a drug habit that was not really compatible with being a family man. I can understand him so much more now as an adult but as a child it was very hurtful to not have him really be part of my life very much. He would come around and visit. It was all open. I knew who he was. But he was unpredictable. He’d say he was gonna come and then he wouldn’t show up. Or then he’d just show up out of the blue. And then at some point he remarried. I was maybe eight or nine, ten, somewhere in there. So early to mid ’80s. He remarried and moved to Kansas. And then I didn’t see or hear from him until I was, like, twenty-three.
I think I wanted closure. By that time I didn’t necessarily want anything from him in terms of a relationship. But I wanted to understand why. And I was going to visit my cousin on my mom’s side who lived, like, half an hour away from where I knew he was. I figured, “I’m gonna be there. I might as well reach out.”
When I reconnected with him when I was twenty-three, it was very awkward. Very difficult. I had things to say that weren’t necessarily received well. I’m not sure I put them well, either. Really, we’ve only truly reconnected since I had my first child. When my biological father found out I was having a baby, he started making more of an effort to stay in contact. I probably hear from him, like, maybe once a month at this point? So it’s not that close feeling you have with someone who’s been part of your life your whole life. But there’s still something there.
My mom died in 2016. The day my mom died, I was feeling very—very unmoored. And I called him. And I said, you know, “Mom just died.” And we talked a little bit. And we hung up the phone. And then he called me back about an hour later and he said, “I’ve been thinking about you losing your mom and I’ve been thinking back over the past, and I just want to say I’m really sorry for being such a bad parent.” It was what I needed to hear. And I wished I could’ve told her that he had said that finally. And I think that’s why we do have the relationship that we have at this point. Because I can forgive—you know, he understands. And I understand him better. So we have a place to work from.
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