What, Me Forgive?

My mother’s death on Thanksgiving, 1998, was the day when forgiveness and I went toe-to-toe like boxers in a ring. Prior to my mother’s death, forgiveness was an intellectual exercise, one I wasn’t very good at. At fifty-two, my unresolved anger at my dad, decades in the making, was already at volcanic proportions. Little did I know that it would spike even further over the next three years.

My parents did not have a marriage made in heaven. They hurt each other. And as death approached my mother, my father’s own mortality issues got the best of him. In total denial, he obsessed over his own medical issues.

To say I was furious at him is an understatement. After medical intuitive Caroline Myss, “read” my mother with uncanny accuracy, described my parents’ relationship and how it played into my mother’s prognosis, Caroline encouraged me to work through the anger I had accumulated over the years, and then have a heartfelt conversation with my Dad.

“Remember Jill, your biography becomes your biology,” Caroline cautioned me. “Don’t follow in your mother’s footsteps.” My mother’s pent-up anger at my Dad had taken a terrible toll on her health. Years of stomach problems (not being able to stomach the way my father treated her, and feeling powerless to do anything about it) culminated in untreatable stage 4-colon cancer that had metastasized to her liver.

Within a week of her death, my father had cleared out all of my mother’s belongings from their home. His sense of liberation was palpable. He quickly began dating. Within three months, he met and was smitten with Elaine, who watched and understood football, played golf, and loved convertibles, travel, and entertaining. She was a free spirit, the antithesis of my mother. Filled with the exuberance of an adolescent, my father called me very early the morning after Danny and I first had dinner with the two of them. He couldn’t wait to ask what I thought of his girlfriend. Uncharacteristically, he was now walking with a spring in his step. More remarkably, this man who had been habitually late for everything was now arriving on time. Continue reading