Life Advice

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Family Wounds and Forgiveness

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: When I was 6 years old, my father left my mother for another woman who was 14 years his junior. She had actually been his secretary and had been with him for a couple of years before the divorce. My dad went so far as to even get an apartment for her in the city. She was 16 at the time.

Fast forward, he stayed married to her for about 25 years until she left him for another married man. My dad put her through law school with the money that had been the college savings for my sister and me. My mother had to fight my dad for child support. He did not want to pay.

I have one sister. Eventually, she got a very small child support check. When we would go to my father's house for the summer and some holidays, my dad would stop paying my mother. He would keep it but told us when we came to be sure that we brought everything we needed. He would never buy us anything, even personal items. My sister and I were scorned by his wife about needing anything, saying, "If I were your mom, I would never be taking child support."

After the divorce, Dad dated a girl not much older than me. I had taken them to the airport for a trip to France. I rode in the back seat with my 5-year-old son, and before we left my dad told me to tell her, if she asked, that I was only 20. I was 26 and married to my child's father. I was so embarrassed. Two years later, he married another woman.

I have three grown, independent, successful children, and my sister has two. The saga always continued though. My father's wives are always first.

My dad's 80th birthday came and went, and my sister and I were not invited to the big party that his wife threw for him. We only found out because when we called, he said something about us not being there. We both cried our eyes out; we told him we had been trying to make plans with his wife to do something, and she lied and told us that it wasn't a good time for a party. My dad, when confronted by us, grew angry with us for being upset with his wife, and he wouldn't talk to us for months.

When we visit Dad, we are only allowed to stay two nights, and we have to make appointments way ahead of time to come. He is now nearly 90. At 62, I'm out of energy with the mental abuse. My sister and I have always kept our mouths shut to keep the peace, for the sake of family. He is the only grandfather our children have known.

 

Where do I find the strength to continue acting like his actions were OK? There is no confronting him now. His mind is good, but his health is giving out. The alcohol has taken its toll. I'm afraid if he passes before I do, that I will never have had any closure; however, I'm feeling he's too old to ever bring up any issues. Looking for a way to be at peace with the past. -- Covering the Past

Dear Covering the Past: I think you can be finished acting. The way your father treated you and allowed your stepmothers to treat you is terrible, and you have every right to be angry. Now the question is, how do you want to channel that anger? First step is accepting the fact that your dad will never be, and has never been, the father you would have liked and deserved. That will be tough to do, but once you acknowledge that, you will see a bit of freedom in it.

Your mother must have been a rock star, judging from how great you and your sister turned out.

The next step would be forgiveness, forgiving this man who was very limited in his ability to truly love or to have a close bond with his children. He is a man who was too weak to stand up to his wife, who was being especially cruel to you and your sister. That is sad. It's sad for you, but it's really sad for him. In the end, he missed out on the special bond that a father can have with his daughter. Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself. So give that gift.

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"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.


 

 

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