He sat at the table and glared at me.
“You always want to question my parenting skills,” he said accusingly. “You just want to rub my face in mistakes I can’t undo.”
“That’s not it at all,” I nearly shouted back at him.
He could be so self absorbed, he often missed anything that didn’t match what he was focused on. I had heard something of a mantra all through my childhood. “Study business,” he would say. “You can’t make a living at anything else.” And, of course, I believed him. After all, he was my dad.
I passed up a lot of dreams. You might think I blame my dad. And, the truth is I did for many years. But, I’ve come to realize I made my own choices. Unfortunately, that didn’t change his behavior. And, the truth is, it hurt. And, today, it just boiled out.
“What is it about my dreams that you have to keep pulling the rug out from under them,” I shot at him angrily.
“I can’t change what happened all those years ago,” Dad growled back.
“I’m not asking you to! I want to know why you’re still doing it!”
He opened his mouth to speak, and paused. He looked bewildered.
“Didn’t you just say coaching is too dangerous,” I pressed.
“Absolutely,” he shot back hautily. “You…”
“Yeah, I have a family to take care of. I heard that part.”
“Darn right,” he interrupted pontifically.
“You’re ignoring that fact I don’t even have to be out on the filed to do that.” I was nearly screaming. “So it isn’t dangerous. Besides, even if I was on the field, coaching is less dangerous than what I do at the plant. You’re pretty happy with that! You even told me not to change jobs!”
Dad sat there in silence. He looked bewildered again.
“What about the other things,” I went on. “I’m an accomplished writer and songwriter. But all you can say is those are nice hobbies. I’ve got as many awards at that as anyone else in this family does in their business stuff. You remember theirs. But you never seem to remember mine.” I glared at him. “I want to know why!”
He sat there in silence, just staring at the table top. He suddenly seemed small. It was almost like he was shrinking, right before my eyes. I actually shook my head to make sure I was seeing things correctly. My chest was heaving. I wanted so badly for him to see. Yet I had no idea how to remove the blinders.
“I’m old and set in my ways, son,” he whispered horsely. His gaze never left the table. “You’ve got to quit blaming me for what happened back then.”
“I don’t care about what happened then,” I shot back, a bit more calmly. “Don’t you remember, I told you last year you were forgiven for all that. What’s the matter, Dad? Can’t forgive yourself?”
It was one of those God moments. The words were out of my mouth before I realized I had said them. In the same instant, I knew they were the exact right words to say. I also knew
His face blanched. He froze in mid-movement. I said it as he started to rise from the table. There he stood. Eyes closed. Hands clenched. Stooped over in that weird posture everyone has as they get in and out of a chair. He opened his eyes and looked at me.
“I really don’t care about what happened then,” I said firmly, holding his gaze. It was one of the few times I actually commanded his attention. “I am concerned about what you are doing now. You have to let go of your failures, too, you know.”
He looked back at the table top. Slowly, he sank back into the chair. His hands fell to his lap. His cheeks slacked. Then, his shoulders began to shake. I walked around behind him, and wrapped my arms around him. I kissed his cheek.
And, there we stayed.
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