Monday, September 22, 2008

sticks and stones

Michael's father beat him as a child, for the most mild of provocation, or perhaps for none at all. The cheerful, smiling redheaded Irish lad with the bright blue eyes and the gentle soul recalls violence when he tries to remember his childhood. Other memories are relegated to the back seat. As a pre-teenager, he would spend weekends with his grandparents under the guise of helping them with chores as an attempt to minimize the danger. Finally, after several years, Michael grew taller than his Dad. The physical abuse stopped but the relationship was never more than tepid.

Although there were no visible scars, damage had clearly been done. As much as I tried, I couldn't love him enough to make him forget the hurt. As tightly as I held him at night, it never fully made the pain go away.

Two years ago, his Dad had a stroke and was placed in long term care. Michael was there every weekend and literally, every spare moment. For over a year. I know in his heart he was looking for his father to have some revelation about how wrongfully he had treated his young son all those years ago, but that was not going to happen. That person was simply long gone, and the feeble soul that had been left in his place would not address or did not recall what had happened.

One day we were talking about it and I asked why he kept going down to see him, knowing that he will never hear the apology he wanted so badly. He told me that he knew those words weren't coming, but that he wanted his Dad to see what a father and son were supposed to be like.


Miss Janey said...

Hitting children. Its horrible. So soul and esteem-killing.

Ron said...

Sometimes a family hides the abuse and violence or simply denies that it happens. I'm glad he has taken the high road and is spending that time with his father. Let's hope my father is as lucky should he become incapacitated. The hurt really never goes away.

Doralong said...

I am touched beyond measure you chose to share this with me, and so very pleased you decided to post it. Important lessons for any of us that have a problematic relationship with a parent-

Al said...

Wow. Great piece Jeff. I read it earlier in a coffee shop and had to put my hand to chin to cover the shakes.

I wonder if it was a bit of both for Micheal? If he wanted him to know that is what it looks like because it never was, and / or if he wanted him to know that's how it is now and that it's okay?