One More Chance

By Avil Beckford

One More Chance

Though I didn’t know it at the time, one of the most defining moments for me was seeing my estranged father at the bus stop. I noticed him when my bus pulled into the bus depot. I hadn’t seen him for about five years, and I debated whether or not I should just say “Hi.” By the time I decided to speak to him, it was too late; my bus had pulled away from the stop.

What made this such a poignant moment for me, not to mention regrettable, was that it was the last time that I saw my father. He didn’t die the next year, or the one after that, but over a decade later. So, what prevented me from reconciling with him? What prevented me from extending a forgiving hand? Why was it important for me to be “right?”

When he died, I was living in another country, and I didn’t find out that he died until months later. Going to a traditional funeral or memorial is, for me, the best way to say goodbye. I didn’t get the opportunity. The saddest thing of all is the way in which I found out that he had died, much like an afterthought in a conversation, “By the way, I keep forgetting to tell you that your dad died.”

I do not feel as if my father was ever really there for me, even when he lived with us. I cannot even tell if I loved him because I never knew who he was. I never knew what his likes or dislikes were. I don’t know if he had a favorite color, song, movie or food. Despite this, the most heart-rending thing is that I didn’t get to tell him that I forgave him while he was alive. I can only imagine how difficult it was for him when he lost everyone and everything that was important to him. Alone on his deathbed, what scenes from his life must have flashed before his eyes?

So, my dad wasn’t a good dad, but looking back now, with the wisdom of my own years, I realize he was doing the best he could. When we were growing up we didn’t know that alcoholism was a disease. I mostly remember him in his drunken stupors. I can’t remember him hugging me, kissing me or even telling me that he loved me. But, I clearly do remember him criticizing me. I remember waking up one night to a smoke-filled house because, in one of his drinking bouts, he forgot to turn off the stove. I remember him leaving for work one morning and returning home six months later, no explanation, expecting to pick up where he left off.

One day he left permanently. I buried my feelings about him so deeply as if trying to erase all traces of him from my life. It worked for decades until the volcano inside me finally erupted leaving a trail of devastation in its path.

I was forced to deal with my past. I had to forgive my father and lay his ghost to rest if I wanted to live an authentic life. In our society we try so hard to ignore or wipe out the bad aspects of ourselves, but it’s impossible to be whole doing that – the good has to co-exist with the bad, and then, and only then, we will be free. My father is part of who I am.

For a long time I pretended that what my father did didn’t affect me. It did, but I also had to recognize that even though I was wounded in some way, I was responsible for myself. It doesn’t matter where we start out in life; it is where we end up that’s important.

Reflecting on my life, I have learned valuable lessons from what is still, for me, a heart-rending experience:

In life, there are no guarantees, so I value and appreciate the people in my life and tell them often how much I love them.

I try to love unconditionally and never keep scores.

In relationships that are important, it doesn’t matter who is right. I take the first step toward reconciliation because life is too short, and I may not get a second chance.

So, my father, since I do not remember you ever telling me that you loved me, and I do not remember ever telling you that I loved you, if there is a chance that you can hear me, “Rest in peace my father, I love you. Whatever I try to do, or whoever I try to be, I am your daughter.”

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