Anger Quieted

My eulogy to my father

I should not be standing in front of you today as I vowed that I would not go to my father's funeral.

After all the years of bitterness and estrangement that defined our relationship and with so much still unresolved, I couldn't bear the thought of being here. I could not come knowing that my father died without ever taking responsibility for the hurt he had caused.

But then, something happened on the night that he passed away.

About six months ago, my mother told me that my father was losing the battle with cancer. We had not seen or spoken to each other in about two years. It meant that we were getting down to our last chance to make amends before it was too late, so I wrote him a letter.

Within this letter, I expressed how I was overcome with sadness that all I ever knew was a man who was so angry all of the time. He had constantly reminded me what a burden children were, how having children robbed him of his freedom and his peace and quiet.

I was desperate to retrieve some happy memories from the time I spent living under his roof. I wanted even some small tidbit to cherish after he was gone. All I could remember was his anger and I needed his help. In this letter, I asked if there were any moments that he remembered where he felt joy at having a daughter, even one single moment of pride. I thought if maybe he could remember some happy moments, he could remind me when these happened and we could share them together.

He never wrote back and that was that. I had put myself out there, tried to connect with him and, once again, I was let down, the way he always said that others let him down. I decided there and then that he would have to face his last days without me being there. He had worked so hard to convince me I had never been anything but a thorn in his side - the message finally sunk in. I stayed away.

Then the evening came when my brother called to tell me that it was looking quite grim for my dad. They did not expect him to last through the night. My brother said he would call again to tell me when the inevitable happened.

As I did not have a telephone in the bedroom, I took a blanket and pillow and lay numb on the couch in my living room as I waited for that final call to let me know that my dad had surrendered to the cancer.

Sometime between the first call and the second, my mind drifted into a state of semi-consciousness. Suddenly, I sat up and saw my father sitting on the end of the sofa. He was crying and between sobs, he said he was sorry that he never wrote back to me because there were so many things he wanted to tell me, so many happy memories that were all hidden beneath his anger.

He smiled and then said, "when you were four years old, all you wanted was to be a ballet dancer. So, you constantly walked on your toes to practice." He told me how when I watched Peter Pan for the first time, I kept jumping off the sofa, trying to fly. “Remember,” he said, “how frustrated you were when you couldn’t ride a bike. You thought a smaller bike would help so you borrowed a very small bike from Freddie who lived next door? This made me laugh until you just toppled over when you tried to ride it."

"And, remember that day," he continued, "when we went fishing on the cove, you were five. I gave you a fishing pole to keep you quiet and then you were the only one who caught anything! It was a whopper and we were all excited and so flustered that none of us were able to hold onto to the fish. It flipped out on to the other side of the boat and got away.”

My father and I laughed between our tears and he told me that, despite how much he might have made me think so, his unhappiness wasn’t my fault and that I needed to forgive him so he could move on.

I hated that he said this now instead of six months ago when we could have had some time together. I didn’t want to forgive him, I really did not. How can you forgive someone who has just senselessly made so many years of your life a living nightmare with their constant anger and rage?

Weirdly enough, in his spectre state, it was the first time I felt my father actually heard me and listened to me as if what I said had any meaning for him. It was the first time I felt that my father understood how I felt and that he was truly sorry for making me feel that way. Yet, I was still angry. He needed forgiveness so that he could move on. It was still all about him! What about me? It would not bring him back, it would not cure anything and it would not change my memories of him or of that early part of my life when I was always walking on eggshells terrified of his temper. He was still being selfish and wanting something from me without really giving anything of himself back.

Suddenly, he was gone and no more words could be exchanged. The phone rang and it was my brother. It was confirmed, my father had moved on without me forgiving him. I told my brother I wasn’t going to go to the funeral. My father had made his choice.

Then, a light went on and I realized that all of my life I had craved to have that kind of dialogue with my father. It meant everything to have him listen without fear of his anger and irrational reactions to what I would say. And, in those brief moments with his spirit sitting on the sofa in my living room, he truly wanted to hear what I had to say. He listened calmly and kindly which is more than he ever did in his living years. And, maybe the forgiveness wasn’t about him after all, but a truce so that I, too, could move on and not let his rage continue to color my perception of the world. It would be unrealistic to think that it would all disappear overnight because too many years went into its making. But, it would be a start.

Although, I had no intentions of being here at the funeral today, here I am. Sometimes forgiveness happens without meaning to. You want to be angry and maybe even have a right to be, but, instead, it's like you cannot help but look past all of those things that made you hurt or angry - to the person inside that you love. Real forgiveness is when it happens without effort or even calculating whether or not the other person deserves it.

As soon as I felt myself forgiving my father, the memories started flooding in. These quirky and endearing elements that made my father who he was – apart from the anger – were suddenly all I could think of. Here are just a few of those.

That cove fishing trip, at five years old, was my first introduction to my father’s world of fishing. The fish got away. I remember my dad going on countless fishing trips and coming back empty handed. I truly thought fishing was just something you did in name only - nothing ever came of it.

Then, there was his golf game which always made him mad enough to ruin his whole Saturday yet, determined to prevail over the green, he would always go out again the following week. I remember how my dad was a wizard at designing computers but how to open the childproof aspirin bottle baffled him and, in a tantrum, he would throw it down on the floor. “Stupid bottle!” he would shout.

My dad loved jelly, especially grape, and I remember how disgusted I was when he used it as a condiment on things I couldn’t understand like cheese bread and scrambled eggs.

His mind was always going, always inventing. He was determined to invent that single thing which would become a household item and would make him an overnight multi-millionaire. He did invent things but they sat on his inventor's bench until the product was already on the market – invented by someone else. Back at the drawing board, he promised himself that his next invention would not sit on the bench. Next time, he would get the patent and make that million. As fate would have it, he never did make multi millions but he was rich with such dreams.

My dad ultimately gave up golf and returned to his love of tennis – a much less maddening pleasure for him. Eventually, those fishless fishing trips became infrequent to non-existent.

But, as long as I can remember, my dad has been devoted to two things in which he was profoundly successful: his flute and his love of study as a true armchair scientist, always exploring other ways of thinking. Fascinated and intrigued by philosophy, history, religion, metaphysics and western mysticism, he was perpetually on a quest for knowledge. He was an incredibly brilliant man.

Sadly, I often witnessed his frustration with the limited expression of his true genius that his career offered to him. In some of the few really frank discussions we had about things, he would tell me he regretted choosing to become an engineer, that he would have enjoyed the humanities or social studies far more. He confessed that he had these fleeting wild glimpses, where he could see himself as a professor in a university or as a researcher. I shared his view that this would have been a much more fulfilling occupation for him and he would have been good at it. When my father delved into anything of interest, he did so with such amazing intensity that you could see the cogs of enthusiasm churning in his brain. He was voracious with it and would spend hours, days and weeks devoted to learning all he could about it.

A typical memory of my dad is him sitting on the living room couch, surrounded by and devouring books of various topics, one after another and writing down his volumes and volumes of thought, perhaps in response to what he was reading or maybe generating ideas of his own. This was my dad’s private sanctuary, the contents of which remain his forever secret.

I am indebted to my father for the love of music and study, along with the pleasure and compulsion for writing he passed on to me.

Sadly, one of the things I learned from my dad is that genius and love are not always compatible. But, what he has now learned from me, maybe posthumously, is that in the end, love always wins. How do I know?

Because I am here.

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Comments 12 comments

Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

This was truly special. I know someone whose relationship with his dad was perhaps to his son much like your dad was to you. His dad even had so many of the same bents and interests that it is truly spooky! He became an engineer when he would have been happier in the humanities, probably writing. He was constantly inventing wonderful things that didn't make it to the market, even one which he ensnared in trying to design it and the patent to prevent anyone from "working around it". He fished and played golf, though in both activities, he was more than proficient. He loved music, loved probing into philosophy and history and literature.

The son is still in the process of working through his own dilemmas and his dad has passed on, but he did come to the funeral and I believe through another's eyes he'be begun to find who his Dad was and to understand better, as you obviously have, yours.

I hung on every word. You told it with such clarity, and without dwelling on anything but the way it was and then how you worked it out and found peace with it.

I'm very impressed.


Leafy Den profile image

Leafy Den 6 years ago from the heart Author

Thank you so much for reading and for the story about the person you know and his father. It means so much to know that others have gone through something similar. It also happened for me that when I went to the funeral, I met people who had known my dad and I had a chance to see him, as you say, through different eyes.

I could never understand why my father was so angry all of the time. The smallest thing would set him off and he just would not "cool down". He would hold grudges for hours, sometimes days. I am beginning to understand now that he must have had his own issues that he never resolved. Anger doesn't come from nowhere. Maybe this is the same with the father of this person you know.

One thing is for sure, it is important to find peace with it otherwise, it eats away at you forever. One of my favorite quotes is by Carrie Fisher who said "resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." In this case, the person has already died and the poison lingers. Resentment doesn't do good for anyone.

Thank you, again, for your kind comments!


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

my dad was considered a genius since he was a kid and i probably had the same feelings you did growing up. My dad wasn't an outwardly angry person, but things would brew inside him. He was always reading and listening to music and if I didn't have something genius to say to him he acted likehe didn't have time for me or my childishness- even though I was a child. I eventally grew up and got my own opinions and knowledge, but now it isn't in satisfactory or legitimate areas- he thinks psychology is a joke and writing is a waste of time and for poor people. So even as an adult he has found a way to mame feel childish belittled. Even though I have accepted so much from him (included in my hub http://hubpages.com/hub/My-Fatherthe-Transsexual) He started being condascending with my 2 yr old daughter months ago. She threw a tantrum and he refused to be around her until she "grew out of the stage or got psychological help". That was it. I no longer speak to him. He thinks he is godly and I'll never measure up. I have to deal with that but he will not put that mentality on my daughter. Great words in your hub- love and genius are not compatible.


Leafy Den profile image

Leafy Den 6 years ago from the heart Author

izetti,

Thank you for your comments. I am baffled because I went to read the hub about your dad. What a strange twist that he would be so judgemental! You would think that in needing the acceptance of others, he would be more accepting of others - but, believe me, I understand the mentality that goes with wanting all and giving nothing in return. I mentioned it in my comment on your hub in reference to something you had said. Some parents give themselves so much allowance but none to anyone else, not even their children.

It is strange that your dad loved reading but felt that writing was for poor people - who did he think wrote the stuff he was reading? LOL!

These contradictions can drive you crazy if you let them! That's our challenge - to somehow rise above it, but not always easy to do.


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

EXACTLY! yes the contradictions drove me nuts especially how important books were to him yet he discouraged me to write.


reeltaulk 5 years ago

Excellent! You have honestly expressed yourself in ways many can't. Especially about something so personal. It is good for the soul, for in it's own way it helps you with your healing process. Best wishes with your writing, and I am more than honored to be a fan.


Leafy Den profile image

Leafy Den 5 years ago from the heart Author

reeltaulk, thank you for reading and for your kind comments! I agree that it is good and important for the soul to face these things honestly. It is the only way to even start to heal but not always easy to do.


Fennelseed profile image

Fennelseed 5 years ago from Australia

Thank you for sharing this very personal account of your relationship with your father. Your ability to see through the misery of all those years and finally see and speak of your fathers qualities as a person is amazing. My relationship with my own father was similiar and I have so many regrets now that he is gone and it is too late to make amends.

Your writing is so honest and compelling. It hit the mark for me, so thank you again.


Leafy Den profile image

Leafy Den 5 years ago from the heart Author

Hi Fennelseed, thank you for stopping by and reading and for your kind comments. It is sad what parents can do to their children and the scars they leave. Thing is, you can only go so far in trying to make amends if they won't face up to it. It sounds like the time to find that peace in yourself and accept that you are not to blame for your father's behaviour. Remember, I never saw my father face to face in his last days. We never made amends in the physical world, only in spirit. So, I do not believe that it is ever too late. Whatever efforts you make to understand and see beyond the hurtful things to the person he was inside, will not be in vain. The challenge is to forgive yourself and understand that as children, we learn to behave in ways expected of us. Those expectations can come from some very faulty thinking that have only to do with our parents' own upbringing. In essence, we cannot be responsible for what we don't know because we have not been taught.


Melovy profile image

Melovy 5 years ago from UK

This is a very interesting hub. Your experience of seeing your father as he was dying sounds amazing. It is lovely that you were able to find peace in this way, and that your forgiving him meant you were then able to then recall those happier times. How lovely.

I think what you wrote in the last comment above is also very true, we do learn to behave in ways expected of us and so of course did our parents before us and so the faulty thinking gets passed on. Yet when we are able to question that faulty thinking miracles can - and do - happen.

I came to this hub through a link and I’m looking forward to reading some of your other hubs. (I can’t see a ‘follow' button on your profile.)


reeltaulk 5 years ago

Anger that is quiet can be a dangerous thing....cause when it explodes it sees nothing but rage! Nice hub lol I didn't realize I commented on this hub before


Leafy Den profile image

Leafy Den 5 years ago from the heart Author

Hi Melovy, thank you for your comment and so sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge. I agree, that we can step back and try to see ourselves objectively and understand why we do what we do, that is truly a miracle. I think the majority of people just accept the truth they are given. Reeltaulk, nice to see you again and thank you for your comment. I guess what I meant by anger quieted is that it calmed down, not that it wasn't voiced. It had been voiced, believe me, usually channelled in the wrong direction. I think when I wrote this, I meant his anger was quieted by his passing. Maybe in some ways, in those final moments where his spirit visited me, he was able to find some peace. I hope so.

Leafy Den

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