The Grudge That Held Me
In the end, I discovered that the joy I was withholding was costing me my own.
I denied forgiveness until I realized I was the one that needed forgiving. This awareness changed my experience of life, of myself, and those around me in ways I never would have imagined. Let me tell you how I came to be here.
When I was about 16 years old, I went to my father’s first birthday party. Yes, you read that right, his first birthday party. You see, it was his first year sober. In Alcoholics Anonymous, you celebrate birthdays, acknowledging your sobriety. At the party, my father chose a special poem to be read. It is called “The Man in the Glass.” It is the only thing I kept from my father for over 20 years. I never knew why, but I could not allow myself to throw it away.
Italics are mine.
|When you get what you want in your struggle for self|
And the world makes you king queen for a day.
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself.
And see what that (wo)man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife (husband, partner)
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
(S)He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For (S)he’s with you, clear to the end.
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test.
If the (wo)man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.
And get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears.
If you’ve cheated the (wo)man in the glass.
Let us start at the beginning. When I was young, my father kept a bottle of 5 Star Whiskey on the kitchen counter. I hated the smell of it. It smelt like my Dad. Eventually, the bottle disappeared but only from sight. Bottles were hidden around the house. Bottles my older brother and I found while we were playing. Between two by fours in the unfinished basement. In the broken couch, our puppy Dino chewed the bottom out of. In the glove compartment of the car. Bottles everywhere and my Dad was almost always drunk.
My parents separated when I was eleven years old because of a threatening incident. Throughout my teenage years, I saw my Dad regularly. It was like meeting with a stranger. Someone I sort of knew but had no real relationship with.
And then I was accepted to and started University. I was not aware of that the fact that acceptance into University meant to me that I was smart, worthy, and capable of accomplishing important things. I grew up feeling so insignificant I did not even see how I was creating my own invisibility. Even I did not see me! I needed the validation of others, like a whole University! To make me feel significant. I was second to alcohol, and I was just barely beginning to recognize how much that shaped me.
My father had agreed to help support me through University because my mother was concerned she may not be able to do it all on her own. We both thought he would want to do it too. However, just before the beginning of my second year, my father informed me that he had no money to give me towards my tuition. I was shattered. It was a blow that said you are not worth it. I flashed back to my childhood when I needed dental work, and my father told me to get a pair of plyers and squeeze my teeth together. It reminded me of sitting at the dinner table with my very drunk father, asking me to try not to cough too much because the sound was annoying. It reminded me of the time he took that bottle from the glove compartment before driving me to my brothers’ soccer game. I felt second to something else in his life again and decided I was done. I wanted to move forward with my life and with people who would support me. I was growing, and I did not want anything to get in my way. I stopped talking to my Dad that day. It was our last conversation for over twenty years!
It was the passing of my mother on the morning of Christmas Eve that brought us together. But not right away. It still took me about seven months to see my Dad. Over the years, he had tried to be in touch with me, and I ignored his calls. He did stop drinking, and a few years ago, I went to his 30th birthday celebration.
The grudge held me and prevented me from seeing not only myself but my father also. The grudge had such a hold on me. I wore it like a badge of honour, telling everyone that having no relationship with my father did not bother me. And, of course, it did not. Because I allowed myself to ignore the entire situation, it was as if neither of us existed. In my mind, we were both somewhat invisible.
But you see, I soon became aware that the woman in the glass was me!
I was afraid to see my Dad because I needed to ask forgiveness. Not for the original infraction. But for never giving him a second chance. This was especially hard, knowing he had already forgiven me and only wanted to be with me again.
Since our reconciliation, we have brought joy to each other’s lives.
I am grateful for his example of how to overcome an addiction and create a new way of life, for my mother’s love, strength and guidance all those years, and my brother for always believing in me.
If a grudge is holding on to you, I hope you are able to open your fist and let it fall away!