They don’t know this but I’ve forgiven my parents. They haven’t exactly apologized for anything and I wouldn’t expect them to apologize. I can imagine them sitting in a fervent prayer circle calling on Jesus Christ to bring their Prodigal Son back to the Land of their Own Borders. But as of now, and all the versions of my future I can imagine, I’ll be wandering. Not once wishing I’d be back.
But all of that doesn’t change the fact that I have, indeed, forgiven them. I imagine them having a wonderful future and I’d wish for them nothing other than that. Henceforth if someone asks me about my parents, that’ll be the only thing I’ll say.
Now, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we need to share a Thanksgiving dinner. It doesn’t mean that they deserve a phone call on a random afternoon. We probably won’t speak at all. So in that way, nothing really will change. Except, by forgiving my parents, I won’t use their legacy as a valid excuse to further my mediocrity. I’ve forgiven them and in that way, they won’t be responsible for my failures.
For a long time, I didn’t feel that way. Believe me, walking a boardwalk with a suitcase with nowhere to go is not the antidote for post-college, 20-something confusion. And I blamed them for that. But it can’t stay that way forever. And I’m glad to say that it won’t.
There’s something about having bad parents that actually becomes rather convenient. They’ve become a go-to card to play and an engaging story at a party that, if ever someone needed to figure out why I’d assumed such a directionless life, it all makes sense: I just have really “bad” parents. Parents that decided not to be there precisely when I’d probably needed them to be there. Now, it helps that I am a good storyteller. And that theirs is one I thoroughly enjoy telling. Because it’s funny and horrid and surprisingly unbelievable and I’m doing all right. But in the end, that convenience is meaningless. I’m not trying to get laughs anymore. I’m moving on with my life.
In my mind that there is no bigger privilege than to have parents committed to your development in a spirit of patience, understanding and love. And those of us that did not have that, we were at a massive disadvantage. But as I think about the ways 2013 Will Not Be My Year, it really means that 2013 is the year from which I will rediscover the things in my life I can’t change, and refocus on determining the things which I can. I don’t have to have parents influencing my decisions or my perception of myself or my values. But I also don’t have to hate them for that either.
Plus, there were moments that I truly feel lucky to have had experienced with them. If my children Django and Rumour ever ask about my father, I’ll tell them about his relentless commitment to my nonexistent future in baseball. How he bought me ridiculous amounts of equipment or training videos. How he offered to buy me a Wendy’s Frosty if I could hit ten baseballs past the infield while we practiced. (Somehow I failed more than I succeeded. Which describes how awful I must have been and never realized.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that my life is sustained by people’s massively overestimation of my abilities and talents. In many ways, my father was the first. And then there is Fast and Slow. I love music now and I’ve realized that I was lucky to grow up in a house where a guitar was always being played. He took me to a hockey game for my 12th birthday. And the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 and afterward we got more Wendys. Which was awesome. And so in those ways, I won’t mind telling them about that.
If Django and Rumour ever ask about my mother, I’ll say that she taught me how to make Jello with Mandarin Oranges. I’m sure there are worse legacies a mother could have.
But I’ve come to discover that my parents don’t need to be entirely bad for them to be entirely worth keeping out of my life. Because their commitment to establishing God’s kingdom on earth did not involve maintaining my physical or emotional health. But not forgiving them doesn’t enhance my physical and emotional health either.
My mother once wrote me an email detailing how having me out of her life was like a dead rat finally being removed from their home. There was a stench she did not realize was there until it was gone. Finally, she said, she could breathe deeply again. At the time, I found this entirely unnecessary and a confirmation of every sort of thought I had about my mother. But now, I see the value in the metaphor.
Forgiveness is like cleaning out the dead rats in your life. All the stenches thereafter become your own again. The next time you smell something you know it won’t be a rat. It’ll be your dirty socks and your leftover milk from Cap’n Crunch and your gym shoes in the corner. And it’s your job to clean them up yourself. I anticipate screwing up my life and I just want to do it all by myself. And only have myself to blame.