Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lessons learned

Long ago, I wrote a post on my own blog about my father. It was perhaps the most difficult, soul-baring post I've ever written, and I've since taken it down. It was just too much to have out there. I've thought about re-posting it, but there's more in there than needs to be shared. At the time, it was rather cathartic, just getting it all out there. Now, it seems unnecessary.

Here's the short version: My pop used to beat the hell out of me. Not regular, sustained violence. Not constant abuse. But when I did something wrong, or when he lost his temper, his wrath was a fearsome thing. Somewhere in the vast difference between spankings and trips to the hospital; that's where we were. Certainly nothing as mild as a spanking on the bottom. But... belts? Closed fists? Bruises and shoves to the ground?


My father, like me, had a lot of rage.

My father, like me, has also changed.

My father, when I was 17, apologized. I'd never even heard of a father doing something like that. But there it was. It changed everything.

Anyway. That's what I wanted to write about - my father taught me something that I don't know could be taught any other, or better, way. That there is an astonishing capacity for change in people. That, barring the more extreme exceptions, no one can't be salvaged. You don't need religion - my dad was, is and always will be a staunch Atheist. I'm sure it would be different for everyone - for my dad, it was a moment. At least, I think it was a moment. We were unpacking the dishwasher, joking around, and my dad reach above my head to open a cupboard. I flinched.

That was our moment. A strange, seconds-long moment where literally nothing happened, but everything changed.

Sometimes it only takes a moment. Sometimes it takes an intervention. Sometimes it takes reading the right book. Who knows? But in the long and varied list of life lessons I learned from my dad, that's the one at the top of the list: People can change. Followed by: Learn to forgive.

My dad turned 70 last week. If I live to that age and am half the man he is, I'll consider it a life lived well.

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