There are some of you who are mentioning things like forgiveness, reconciliation and unlisted telephone numbers. Here’s some perspective.
I’m not about to change my phone number. I’ve had it for almost twenty years and it is the one way my family has to contact me in an emergency. Had I changed my number, I would have missed a final chance to talk to my dying Danish grandmother last August. Rest assured that my phone book listing shows no address. There are limits.
As to forgiveness, some things are essentially unforgivable. I find it especially so when the person who has done all of the harm is unwilling to admit the least responsibility and instead pretends like nothing ever happened. I find that sort of blithe and uncaring attitude beyond disgusting. No, past hurts and harm DO NOT need to be the central topic of discussion at all times. However, if they cannot be faced up to AT ALL, then the same abusive mechanisms still remain firmly in place and it is nearly worthless to try and make any progress. My father has NEVER made even the slightest attempt to recognize the harm he has done to his own children.
I can still clearly remember hearing my father say;
I can also remember my frantic mother trying to pull him off of me when the stick he was using had a nail in it. I recall standing in the doorway of our dining room and watching my father slap my oldest brother across the head so hard that he temporarily lost hearing in one ear.
Only decades later did I find out how my oldest brother had been sent to the hospital with a broken collarbone at age three. My father had thrown him back down into his playpen because he would not stop crying. My father had a particularly vicious streak in him. I can only wonder that the potential loss of face for being known as a wife beater (I never saw him physically abuse my mother) forced him to vent his rage upon us children.
Were any of us boys so lazy as to leave our toys on the lawn over the weekend, my father would make a point of running them over with the power mower. Since my father was a school teacher, all of us had rather meager allowances. The toys we bought for ourselves were pretty well treasured. There was a particular odor of cruelty to finding our favorite play things strewn across the lawn in an unrecognizable scattering of mangled bits.
This sort of callous behavior wasn’t limited to our toys. I can still remember getting separated from my father and brothers during an afternoon shopping trip. The store was a solid ten miles from our house. I recall wandering around the store for another hour or so looking for my family. After a while, I gave up and began the long walk home. Nearly half way home, dark had fallen and as I walked alone alongside the road. Suddenly the family’s car pulled up and I was treated to a sound beating at the curb. I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old at the time, if that.
The nearly total inability of my father to show any love led him to immerse himself in his work. He became chairman of the PTA and president of his district’s teacher’s association. He was rarely home for dinner (a blessing, I suppose) and was gone a lot during the weekends. My mother began to work as a travel agent and did so well at it that she was given free tickets on SAS for a vacation back to Denmark, her mother country. My father was intellectually lazy enough that he had never bothered to learn much Danish and didn’t want to go. I can still remember how during one of my mother’s absences on a trip back to Denmark, all of us were fed TV dinners every single night for weeks on end.
Around that time we finally acquired a television set. With my mother overseas and my father out late each night, us three boys were supposed to hie ourselves off to bed at the proper time in his absence. Of course, we would stay up and watch television until we heard a car in the driveway and then dive into bed fully clothed and pull our covers up before my father got in the door.
He quickly learned to place his hand on the still-warm television set to ascertain whether we had stayed up past our bed time. Then he would haul us out of bed and spank us for disobeying. Finally, he got it down to an art. He would turn off his engine and headlights, noiselessly coast down the driveway and barge into the room where we three sat watching television so as to catch us by surprise. Much later in life, a girlfriend who had a psychology degree listened in horror as I told her about this. She thought it was one of the sickest things she had ever heard.
In reflection, I have to agree with her. From all appearances, my father wanted us to misbehave so that he could take out all of his frustrations upon us. I wonder how it was possible for someone who had fathered three children to not understand that kids aren’t going to show any devotion to someone who shows them no love. I’m rather sure this never occurred to my father and probably hasn’t crossed his mind to this day.
All I know is that I will never permit myself to be such an unloving person. I can forgive a lot of things, but I refuse to forget when someone has been viciously cruel. I would be an idiot to do so.