“He’s in there Ryan. He doesn’t say much though, but go ahead in.”
“Right, well, uh, thank you.”
I walk into a sterile smelling room with a bed, a TV, and an old man who I don’t recognize.
He says nothing in return, not even moving his head to look at me.
“I came here because I love you, and I want to forgive you. I want to move beyond the past and think about today and tomorrow.”
He coughs, but it feels like he’s coughing at me, as if to say that he doesn’t care what I think.
“You never really cared what I thought, did you? I remember how funny you thought it was to sit on my face and fart when I was a little kid. I didn’t think that was funny. I hated it. I asked you to go outside and toss a baseball around with me, and you were always too busy. You were always too busy to spend time with me, but you were never too busy to watch old reruns of Taxi, MASH, and All in the Family. You never once watched anything I liked on TV. You really had no interest in spending time with me did you? Why would you even have kids? What’s funny about that is I don’t have a single good memory that I can think of where it was just you and I hanging out. I mean, I pretty much mentioned all the good times we had, getting my face farted on and watching old people television that I was too young to understand. The bad times where you beat me and told me how worthless I was – those were really bad times. I don’t care about the stories of how your mom used to throw ashtrays at your head because you’re a bad person. Do you remember when I had to go to school and explain black eyes that you had given me? Do you remember breaking a mirror with my sister’s head? Everybody looked at me; they knew you were hitting me, but I told them the lies that you told me to tell, and they accepted them. I wanted to tell everyone the truth, but you always told me how I would get taken away from you and put into a foster home where I would be beaten worse, fed less, and maybe even molested.”
My hands are shaking from the anger, but he says nothing. He just sits there drooling. I reach over and grab his collar, pulling him toward me so that our noses are touching. He has to look at me. He has to understand.
“If all that wasn’t bad enough, you leave my mom, your wife, our family when I was 17. I needed you then, and I could barely get you on the phone. You went and had a kid with another woman, and I accepted that child as my sibling, until you abandoned that family too and didn’t even bother to show up to my wedding. I still got past all of that, but when your new wife ripped me off, stealing money from me, you got behind her and never spoke with me again.”
My hands are shaking, and I’m crying. I set him back down again, fix his shirt, and say: “I just wish I knew why, but it doesn’t matter.”
It really doesn’t matter. His motives don’t matter. His actions are everything, and he was a terrible Dad.
“I forgive you Dad. This is a clean slate. I had my say, and now I start from here. I see you from this moment on for whatever you are from now on. Look, I know your birthday is coming up soon. I’ll see you again on your birthday OK?”
He actually looks like he’s trying to say something. He doesn’t move his head but he’s mustering sounds carefully from his mouth, so I get up close and put my ear near his mouth.
“Don’t . . . don’t.”
He stops talking.
“Don’t what, Dad?”
“Come . . .”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Back . . .”
“Don’t come back? You don’t want me to come back on your birthday? I can come another day. I know you hate celebrating your birthday.”
“Ever . . .”
More tears roll down my face, but I’ve still forgiven him. I won’t take that back. We both need that peace. He is a terrible father. What did I expect?