Chapter 10: Forgiving my dad

  • My Challenge: Held a grudge against my dad
  • My Choice: Let is go, or keep it
  • Vulnerability side of the story: I am innocent the whole way, and yet I am the one who needs to move the needle.

My mom raised me alone. My aunts were also very present. They all lived nearby. My dad was absent and far away. For most of my childhood, he lived in Djibouti or New Caledonia. He would visit once a year for a few hours in the afternoon. Always un-announced. Sometimes I would come back from the basketball playground, and my friends would tell me, “your dad was here”. I do not know what is the most surprising. My friends recognizing my dad – at most, they saw him once a year – or that he will not even announce his annual visit.

Despite having 2 kids together, my mom and dad never lived together. I never had him around. On the plus side, I never experienced the trauma that kids go through during a divorce. Which, in some weird ways, was a gift. I was also happy to see him. It felt nice. He usually came with a nice gift and/or a souvenir from one of his trips. The most prized item he brought back was an ostrich egg! I was fascinated by this thing. So big with such a thick shell. 

The magic of the surprise annual visit faded away over the years. I resented the absence of my dad. I wanted to go fishing and do the things kids do with their dad in movies.

I respected the confidence that my dad was showing. He is tall, almost 6,6ft. Everything about him showed strength. The way he walked and talked. My dad had everything to be a good dad.

Over the years, my grudge grew stronger. The peak was when I was 18. I am an adult now. One of the first official actions I remember is signing some court documents. We were suing my dad. And as an adult, my signature is needed on the forms. I hate doing that. But I also believe my mom. She has sacrificed so much to raise me. If she is asking me, it must be needed.

From there, the situation stabilizes. Still the annual visits, some interesting conversations, I meet my stepbrothers for the first time, my nieces and nephew. I love becoming an uncle overnight!  

There is clearly this son-father bond with my dad, but there isn’t a deep relationship. Is it going to stay like this forever? That what I thought for a long time. Why would it change? It has been like this for more than 20 years. It became normal. When we see each other, we are cool. When we are not, well, we seem to forget about each other—no phone calls, no letters, not even for Christmas.

It all changed one day. I am on the train to Long Island, NY. It is the early morning. I write an email on my phone, reread it, and press send. Just like that, I tell my dad that I forgive him for everything. It took me 20 years to realize that holding a grudge against my dad was like pinching myself and hoping he would feel the pain. I felt so light after truly forgiving him.