change · childhood · despair · empathy · family · father · fear · forgiveness · loneliness · love · recovery · sorrow

1 + 1 = Forgiveness?

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Because he was an electrical engineer and adept with numbers, it was always my father I went to with math homework.
This near-nightly escapade always took the same tired route:
My dad trying to explain to me a concept that was assumed, understood, and so
ingrained for him by now that he couldn’t
explain it properly, and his getting frustrated when I couldn’t understand what
for him was plain and evident.
I would get frustrated at his impatience, and the fact that
I had to do this homework so I had to sit with him. And eventually, we’d become locked
in a battle of wills so contentious, we’d end up screaming at each other.
We call this 4th grade.
My brother told me a little more than a year ago, when I was
going through chemo treatment and my dad was unable to show up for me, that
what I was asking my dad to do (show up emotionally) was like asking a crippled
person to walk: It’s impossible. It’s unfair, and it’s presumptive.
The same assumption that my dad had about teaching me math
concepts, the ease and obviousness and facility he had with numbers, I have about emotional matters. I simply assume that because this is something so damned simple and easy for me, even
when it’s painful, that
everyone
should be able to do this.
I am making the exact same mistake he did with me: I am
shaming someone for something they are not able to do.
So, when I contemplate following up my dad’s return
voicemail from Father’s Day, I have found that I want to do what I always want
to do: Hash it out. EXPLAIN to him what
is so obvious to me: I needed you to show up for me, and you didn’t. In fact,
you blamed me for not being attentive to your needs. And you threw in my face every time
I’ve failed in my life as if that would manipulate me into realizing, once
again, you’re the savior and I’m the fuck-up.
I want to tell him this, of course, in a gentle, loving way,
because then, of course, he’ll be able to hear it and understand it.
If I explain it really  s l o w l y  as if to a child, my dad can’t possibly not
understand that his behavior across the years has been abominable at many times,
and that I don’t like to be in touch with him because of it. That I don’t trust
him because of it.
However. I’m simply expecting what he expected of me back
then: Comprehension.
No Comprende, Mamasita. He don’t get it. He won’t get it. And you can sit with as many graphing
calculators and pie charts of his behavior and your feelings of hurt and
betrayal as you choose. You can even make a PowerPoint presentation about how
his increased anger and violence was inversely proportionate to your trust of
him.
However. I’d be wasting my breath. And do people even use
Powerpoint anymore?
I still remember concepts my dad taught me about math. I
used the one to figure out a percentage this morning. Somewhere between the
yelling and the tears and the slammed books and doors, I did learn something.
But what was the price of that education?
My dad was not a teacher. And my dad is not an empathetic
person. It just is. Just as a paraplegic, my asking him to do what he is
mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unable to do is unfair of me. My expectations on him won’t make him walk.
I hate relearning this lesson. It too ends in tears most
times. But, today, I do have a choice between struggling to opening his mind, or to simply let him be a cripple and relate to him as such. Because it seems like the person who
needs to learn something is not my dad (someone I have no control over). The
person who needs to learn empathy here, soy yo. 

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