The perception of having been seriously aggrieved by one's own parents is no doubt one of the more daunting burdens one can be called upon to bear. So many feelings come into play when navigating these treacherous waters. Love, hate; loyalty, betrayal; anger, fear, guilt - all conspiring to steal away one's sense of emotional well-being.
Sadly, having to dispose of the obscenity that was my religious inculcation as a child has complicated my path to emotional maturity. Only recently have I come to experience some sense of inner reconciliation so vital to the prospects of letting go.
So desperately did I want to begin the healing process with my father, the last words I spoke to him as he lay dying were, "Thanks for being such a good dad, Pop." I thought it right to leave him with something loving from me as he left this world. Funny. Most of the time I didn't think he was a very good dad, but I told him he was in the hopes that it might ease his burden for whatever journey he was about to embark upon.
Finding those words of reconciliation for my dad at that moment was made easier by his having mellowed considerably the more he aged. A little wisdom appeared to come his way. He stopped badgering me about God; starting smiling a little more. I took these subtle changes as a sort of apology for all his mistakes given that he was not disposed to articulating personal apologies as a rule. It seemed he wanted to let go of the past; forgive himself. To deny him this purging of bitterness would have been to deny myself an opportunity for reconciliation and inner peace, to say nothing of the opportunity to love him in a way I hadn't before. I'm thankful a little wisdom befell me on these occasions and I accepted his conciliatory gestures.
Reconciling with my mother is proving much more problematic. The spectre of mental illness has been hanging like a pall over her daily life for many years. It interferes with what's left of her family relationships. And in a cruel twist of circumstance, her illness only drives her more desperately toward her obsessions: God and judging others. The obstinance and aggression I know deep in my heart are symptoms of her illness, but they are nonetheless difficult to get past. Her facade of self assuredness can be quite convincing, yet I know this is simply a tool she uses to cling to whatever is left of her withering sanity. For some reason, her immense suffering - mostly in the form of self-persecution - doesn't reveal itself to some, but to my eyes, it is ominously undeniable.
I am not very hopeful for the prospects of some wisdom coming my mother's way as it did my father. As long as her illness remains untreated, she cannot hear or receive messages of love and wisdom. This saddens me greatly. It seems she won't ask for help because this would mean - in her eyes - that God does not have all the answers, something she is plainly not willing to concede.
One thing I did that eased my consternation was write my mother a letter. One I admittedly haven't sent to her, but as I explained in my very first blog post (where it can be seen) the writing of this letter provided much needed catharsis.
I'm comfortable suggesting there's been progress toward letting go of the anger I have for my father. There's a hint of serenity now where once there was only turmoil. And it's a good feeling. With my mother, anger is no longer my demon. What possesses me now is the burning desire to see her acknowledge her illness and seek treatment for it, because the reward that awaits here - being able to give and receive love - is too precious a commodity to live without.
Maybe we don't ever let go of it completely. If so, hopefully I'll still find some comfort in the knowledge that I have loved as best I could. Perhaps, after all is said and done, that's all we can ask of ourselves.
2 years ago