This past Mother’s Day was somewhat of a monumental one for me. After having worked with my therapist for several months leading up to it, I decided to do a quick trip over the weekend to Los Angeles to drop in and surprise my mother. Now there are a few things that made it monumental, of which included: I ventured to visit my parents by myself for the first time in nearly 8 years and I took the opportunity to share my heart and feelings with my mother and father.
I don’t know how else to describe it other than to tell you how the event went down. As I pulled into my parents’ driveway with the rental car obtained with my DEBIT card J I noticed that my father was hanging out in the garage and that my mother’s car was missing. He promptly told me that he had done his best to try to keep my mother home for her “surprise” but was defeated in the end. She had stepped out of the house for a few hours to CO-SIGN AN AUTO LOAN for a family member. AHHHHHHHHHH!! Is what screamed in my head then and still does at this moment just thinking about that.
But nevertheless I saw this as an opportunity to talk with my dad one on one, just as I had rehearsed with my therapist. I lead off just by catching up, seeing what’s going on in each other’s lives and asking him how he was coping with his neighbors’ recent passing. From there I transitioned into conversation that had the potential to be wildly volatile. I lovingly embraced my father and looked into his eyes and told him that I loved him and that I cared about him, and that although I was not mad at him, that I needed to hear him tell me that he loved me and that I needed an apology from him.
I proceeded to tell him the toll that his excessive drinking took on my life and my perception of the world. I shared that his stifling influence to hold my mother back from expressing her love for me physically, tormented me into my adult life, causing me to never seek out meaningful relationships. I also told him that I walked away from his house at 18 with an unbelievable negative amount of self-esteem, that I felt worthless to the world and to myself, and that it nearly cost me my life and my marriage through anger, hurt and addiction.
But I also told him that I understand that he did the best he could. That it was not easy moving as a child to another country and having to learn everything from scratch, from language to daily life. And that I could not imagine what it would feel like to have attended my brothers’ funerals as he did, with the feeling that they were taken too soon.
And I also told him that I have been taking responsibility for my own life as an adult. That I have been engaged in therapy and a recovery process. And that I am the happiest I have been in my entire life, but I still wanted a relationship with him that is better than what we have now. I did not excuse the trauma or say that it was okay. I just re-emphasized that to get to a better relationship that I needed to hear him say two things: That he loved me and that he was sorry.
Then something unexpected happened. As the tears ran down my face and my side of sharing the discussion was finished, I saw tears began to well up in my father’s eyes. Without hesitation he told me that he loved me. And he also nodded and shared that there was so much he felt he could have done better as a parent, and that he was genuinely sorry for the pain in my life that it had caused.
We embraced each other through probably one of the most meaningful hugs I have ever experienced in my life and I kissed my father on the forehead.
I thought I was prepared for the entire ordeal and analyzed every which way the conversation could have turned. But alas, my therapist did not prepare me for what would happen if everything went well. I felt loved, cared for and proud to call my dad my father. It was not on my expectation list to even have my father respond. I expected him to either throw me off his property or sit back in silence and tell me I was crazy through his body language. But instead he listened to me, something that never happened from 0 to 18, and his eyes and body language showed empathy and compassion, and it was happily indescribable.
When my mother began to back into the driveway I swiftly sprinted to the inside of their house to retrieve the flowers I had purchased for her to surprise her. As she stepped into view I made myself visible and in a calm voice said, “Happy Mother’s Day,” she jumped back in disbelief and looked like she was an emotion or two away from having a heart attack! She began to cry as we hugged and told me that she was so happy to see me.
We used the time together to catch up on life, work (which my mother in her new position is thoroughly pumped up about) and just about everything in between. I genuinely wish that the time spent together was longer, but it was a great stepping stone to what I hope is the road to a stronger and healthier relationship with my parents.
My main goals were to just show them that I love them and care about them, and tell them that I wanted a more meaningful relationship, and that when they were ready I would be there with open arms. What I received felt like exact reciprocation. This was completely unexpected. And while I know things will never be perfect and individuals (especially THIS ONE) are flawed, I feel like my parents and myself are on a much stronger footing to re-engage being involved in one another’s lives again.
I don’t know what your situation is. Perhaps you have endured abuse on a lower or greater level than I did during your developmental years. But I would like to share that for a long time I felt a bleakness and overall feeling of despair when thinking about my family or origin. It drove me to a point where I came within inches of losing everything meaningful in my life because of it, through my own choices. I never even thought we would have the hope of being anything more than acquaintances and people that used to know each other. But the work that I have put into therapy and healing myself along with being vulnerable and honest with the people that I love has truly set me free from the toxic attitudes that I held toward myself for decades.
There’s still a lot of work to be done and a lot of phone calls and trips to be made. But on the flight back to Chicago, all I could think was that I am truly happy with exactly where I am in life, right at this moment.