Wednesday, March 28, 2007

blood and darkness

Blood and darkness were two of the plagues visited on the Egyptians that we commemorate at Passover by pouring out drops of wine from our glasses. They're also -- figuratively -- at the heart of the issue that I'm struggling with now.

I've always liked Passover. And, I suppose, there are certain aspects of it that I could relate to more closely this year -- say, for example, Pharaoh's order to kill the Hebrew babies and the parallel slaughter of the Egyptian firstborn. My father has invited me to his house for the seder, but I'm extremely reluctant to go.

I don't really feel like celebrating anything at the moment. Also, I guess I still haven't forgiven my father.

I was in the hospital for a long time. After my c-section, they kept me there for five days or so. Then, a day or two after I was released, my blood pressure spiked again and I was back in the hospital for another week. My brother (who's a doctor) told my father that I might die.

This wasn't exactly the truth, but wasn't all that far from it either. After it was clear that I was going to get better, one of the residents blurted out, "We were afraid we were going to lose you too." It was symptomatic of my state of mind that the most painful part of that statement was the "too."

During that entire time, although I asked him several times, my father never came to visit me. Now, my father is retired, is in perfect health, and lives a 50-minute drive from the hospital. Twice a month, he travels to a city 400 miles away to see his grandchildren and his other daughter.

I can't "talk" to him about it. You can't really talk to my father about anything. And I know he'll never apologize. Do I want to forgive him? I'm not sure. Can I forgive him? I'm not sure of that either.


LeRoy Dissing said...

He should know your feelings. Whether he forgives you or not, he needs to know that you hurt when he didn't care enough to visit at a time of need for you. At least then you can maybe heal because you did all you could to let him know how much he meant to you and what it would have meant to you if he showed a little caring. Then the ball is in his court not yours.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I finally decided that there are things for which one is not required to forgive one's parents, unless said parents were to ask for such forgiveness. (Insert bitter laughter here.)

I have also been told that it is not required that one spend time with parents who have proven (over and over again) that they don't give much of a damn. That one seems harder to assimilate, somehow. But I'm working on it.

frumiousb said...

It was symptomatic of my state of mind that the most painful part of that statement was the "too."


Tough call about your father. Did he ever say why he didn't come to visit when you asked him to do so?

I'm someone whose bias always goes towards informed forgiveness-- maybe something more like acceptance than forgiveness. But some things are both unacceptable and unforgivable-- only you know where that line is for you.

My parents are both dead, so I guess that's where the bias comes from-- much harder work to forgive and accept people once they are gone, and I've found that you end up having to do it sooner or later.


(by the way, I started the first of many rounds of tests over at the hospital to look for risk factors. What they have told me is that in my case they expect to find some. We'll see.)

Magpie said...

I'm sorry that your father didn't visit. Difficult parents are a hard cross to bear - finally therapy helped me to understand that my mother is a narcissist - it didn't change her behaviour, but it helped me be able to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I was taught that forgiveness is an act of will...but it's hard.

Lori said...

Niobe- I am sorry your father failed you at a time when you needed him so much. Do you feel as though his absence was really an indication of lack of caring, or an indication that he is unable to face the truly painful events of life? Neither is necessarily excusable, but might feel different to you.

Remember that forgiveness is ultimately about what it will do for you, not what it will do for him. You could forgive him and he wouldn't necessarily even have to know. I think this idea put forth by the French theologian Christian Duquoc is interesting, "forgiveness is an invitation to the imagination." It is not "forgetfulness of the past"; rather it is "the risk of a future other than the one imposed by the past or by memory." But... maybe taking the risk of believing the future could be different is too difficult also. I could certainly understand that.

Sheila said...

What your father did? That sucks.

I think forgiveness means (or can mean) a lot less than what we want it to mean. There's some hallmark idea that after you forgive someone you have this beautiful, healed relationship and I think that's hooey. I think forgiveness is more like one way among several of figuring out how not to be hurt by someone anymore, and you only really need to do it if your motivation is completely selfish so you can move on with your life.

At some point I forgave my father, which for me meant understanding that holding his limitations against him hadn't gotten me very far and never would. But I also came to see that within his limitations--which frankly I still don't fully get, except that I can see he has them--he did love me and had my interests at heart, to the extent he could understand what my interests were. Umm, so not exactly a happily ever after, but it's been a lot easier to be in the same room than it was before.

It doesn't sound like you're at that point with your father, and if you can move on with your life (say, by finding somewhere else to be for seder) without forgiving him then there's no need. IMHO.

JuliaKB said...

A more difficult question may be do you want to forgive him. There is a person in my life (thankfully, not MY parent) who I have been unsure for a while whether I can forgive. But lately it occurred to me that I may not WANT to forgive that person, that forgiving may be almost a betrayal of my son and my family.
I will see how I feel in a bit, but there may be an interesting pre-Yom Kippur talk with one of my rabbis in my future...
I like the idea of forgiveness as a risk. But closing this door forever may also be a risk. Would it help to talk to your brother about this?

pengo said...

If there isn't much else to be grateful for at the moment, I just wanted to point up how many thoughtful, intelligent and caring people you have attracted to your blog.

niobe said...

To be perfectly fair to my father, he doesn't come to visit me when I'm not at death's door either. So, at least he's consistent.

As for why he doesn't visit me (or my brother, for that matter, who lives even closer and has an 18-month-old baby):

Well, my father has to babysit his other grandchildren, visit his other daughter, take the cats to the vet, have his teeth cleaned, see his wife's best friend's daughter's baby, go to the theatre, have friends over for brunch. He's very busy.

Okay. I'm sounding far too bitter. I thought that I'd made my peace with this situation. But apparently not. Something else for me to work on.

Aurelia said...

With Catholics, forgiveness, whether from God through confession, or from the person you hurt, can only happen when the sinner asks forgiveness and truly means it, and repents.

If he doesn't ask for it, I don't see how you can forgive him. But then you also have to find a way to live with that in your heart.

Is the seder invite his way of getting you in the same room, so he can say something? Possibly?

Sara said...

If this is going to be a large seder, I wouldn't go. Honestly.
I agree with Leroy that you ought to tell him, if you can, how you feel. Can you tell him why you don't want to come to his seder and why?

Of course I say this when I am still seething about how my oldest friend and my sister have treated me. I find my problem to be that given that it's my pain, it's my burden, but they immediately become so defensive that I get upset, become insensible, and thus, "oversensitive". (Oh, and self-centered, too) I understand very well how it's impossible to "talk" to some people.

You may very well have made peace with the situation with your father under past conditions, but understandably would have expected it to be different this time.

I wish you could come to our seder.

delphi said...

If your father is anything like the people I know, he probably didn't come because he didn't know what to say or do. In choosing not to come, he did/said exactly the wrong thing. At least, that is the excuse that my Brother in Law gives... Like we are supposed to feel sorry that he is incapable of facing difficult situations.

There are so many people that I am currently unable to forgive that I have no comment on that issue. I am currently working on it with my therapist and priest.

(p.s. thanks for adding the Babyloss Directory link)

wannabe mom said...

I find it interesting that family (your dad) considers it ok to disrespect his own daughter, in her time of need. It's not like you were short a buck at the concession stand, your condition was very serious. (I just had to reiterate that to fan my fire for you.)

Anyway, my point is that, you have the right to be very selfish with your feelings and your actions in order to grieve.

niobe said...

wannabe mom:

It's not like you were short a buck at the concession stand

Is it wrong that I find this extremely funny?

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and for letting me know how you've dealt with similar issues in your lives.