3 Decades later: Where were You – the Power of Forgiving

Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.

Mat 6:12

Some time ago, I wrote an open letter to my dad. This one is different from the usual entry on this page as it is very personal. Yet, it shows the greatness of God and the power of forgiving.

Now let’s go to the story:

Eating Easter eggs and chess

I know that a letter from a son to his father should be the most natural thing there is. Not with us. But none the less I am writing this open letter to you.

I know that there is no chance of you reading it. That is not what it is all about. This is only about me. Sounds egoistic and self-centered. Maybe it is.

In the beginning, you were a good dad. At that time, you were my hero. We had an odd start. When mom was in hospital with me, she got an Easter egg — her first Easter egg in her life. One of those big chocolate ones. But coming home, she found that you ate all of it. Not that you were mean. It never even occurred to you that this was wrong.

But with me and my brother for the first few years, you were a good dad. So I am told. We went places, we did things together, and you were there. The omnipresent pipe in your mouth, clothed in a suit, always correct and distinguished.

But then I beat you in chess. That was it for playing games together.

You left us years before you physically left

I remember the days together. You came home from work, read your newspaper — there was an evening edition in those years —, we ate at 6pm precise, you went to do some studying, and then we went to bed. Later, I learned that you watched the news at 8pm, read some sci-fi, and went to bed. Just to repeat this the next day.

You left us years before you physically left. Therefore, it was not that much of a shock when we came back from a Boy Scout camp. While we were gone, you and mom got divorced. We were just told that you would leave a week later. Then you took one picture off the wall—this painting of an African woman you still have in the elderly home—and left. Frankly, it was as if nothing was missing afterward as you had been out of touch for so long before.

I remember that my brother and I had given you and mom some gifts for your anniversary only a few weeks before you left. You got some wine — wine and pipes, a sure bet, but our budgets did not measure up to your standards, so I never saw you actually smoke one of the pipes we gave you over the years. Mom got some flowers. She later told us that they were a fitting gift. They were usually used as decorations for graves. That hurt. It gave us the idea that we had hammered in the death nail to your relationship.

Within the years following, I tried to keep contact. Many times I would drive to your new home, on a borrowed moped, only to spend some time standing in the hallway of your apartment building as we both searched for words. You never came.

You were so correct

I still loved you. I admired the fact that this remote university ran out of courses for you to do as you were so diligently learning and investing into your knowledge. I was proud that you self-taught yourself into different professions, way ahead of the days when everybody talked about flexibility in the workplace. Thus, I chose a career path according to yours. I asked you for help becoming a computer programmer, and you gave me a telephone number. No recommendation, no talk about what it was like to program.

I ended up working with you for a year. You were so correct. I was the only one who was allowed to call you by your first name. What a privilege. But frankly, not really a father-son-relationship.

We had this moment. The moment I outsmarted you in a COBOL program. Something like pride showed in you. No word, just a look. That was the closest we ever came.

After you had left our employer, we met again a few years later. It was maybe 5 times for lunch. I was back at university, and you worked close by. So I searched the restaurants of the area, sometimes for more than an hour, whether I would find you for lunch. It helped that you had your routines.

You never had to calculate your working hours. You came and left the same minute day after day, thus the number of workdays in the month determined your work time. You used your vacations to do your yearly refresher in the military service. This way you did not have to come up with a new routine – somebody else did that for you.

I had to fight my inheritance

After that time, I got tired of keeping up this one-sided relationship, and for many years you have been gone for good from my life.

You saw all my three kids — once or twice each, when they were dedicated to the Lord, or when they showed up at your door to get to know their past. And you turned away.

I did a better job. I can truly say that. I have three wonderful children. It was not easy. Too many times I had to fight my inheritance, my imprint. Too many times I fell into the pattern you taught me. All my kids at times ran from me. All have come back and bonded.

Thus, I tried to build a relationship with you when I was contacted that you had undergone surgery and things went wrong.

Here you were, this distinguished, but distanced gentlemen. White hair, no teeth, in a sweat suit, with no memory, confused, old. First, you told everybody that we were not allowed to see you. You did not need us. But then you were glad we came.

It is hard for me to build this relationship after all those years. I can truly say that I have forgiven you. Forgiven you all the hours I laid in bed and was afraid to become like you. All the situations I did not know how to react because I had no role model. I could not even say at times that I wanted to do it differently than you did — just doing something was different, just being there was more than what you did. But it did not help. It did not give me a point of reference.

You are not here for me now either. This would be the time for you to be the focal point of our relationship—just as you cradled and loved me when I was little, I am to care for you now. But on what basis?

A man I can trust to be there

But why do I write all this to you? To get it off my chest? No. As an exercise of soul-cleaning? Not really.

I want to tell you that I forgive you.

And I want to tell you about the love and greatness of God. Ten years ago, God brought a man into my life that became what you never were. A father. A friend. A man I can turn to when I do not know what to do. A man I can share my successes and my failures with. A man who leads me in a godly way to lead a godly life. A man I can trust to be there.

I am so thankful. God knows what we need. He sees our sorrows. And he heals.

I truly wish that he heals you too.

Your son