When does forgiveness start?

Any time I get an e-mail that says “Chuck Miller – personal,” I automatically associate it with someone trying to either sell me something or to try to swindle me out of something.  You know, Nigerian princes and the like.

This time, it was different.  And it brought back memories that I had hoped were completely dealt with years ago.


A gentleman named George contacted me through my personal e-mail account last asunday, leaving this message.

I listened to BobMill on ebay radio yesterday, and found your Fathers’ Day story before contacting him. WOW - heartfelt thanks for your courage to share! And super writing, too - you scared me, taught me, inspired me, entertained me, most importantly, nipped a dangerous friendship in the bud. I’ll be looking for more.

Thanks, George.   I appreciate that.  I really do.

Let me give you the tl:dr version of this.  My relationship with my father was toxic at best.  I suffered various forms of emotional and physical abuse, both before my parents divorced, and even for a short period of time in 1978, when I couldn’t live with one set of parents and chose to live with him and his then-wife.

My contact with him afterward was absolutely minimal.  I think I spoke to him twice, the last time in maybe 1987.  He probably has no idea of my life, and I’m sure he doesn’t care.  And I’m not looking to reconnect with him any more than I would reconnect with grade school bullies.

But for a moment… I thought about what has happened in those years.  What might have happened to him.  And just for a lark… and maybe against my better judgment … I listened to the eBay podcast.

In those moments, I heard my father’s voice for the first time in nearly 30 years.  I heard him talk about how he started stamp collecting at the age of four, and that he’s 74 now.  I heard him discuss techniques for bidding and purchasing and preserving and selling stamps.  In the distance, I heard the Boston twang in his voice, it was almost as if I was hearing a male version of my Grandma Betty’s voice.

He’s got his own life now.  He’s got his own life and his own family and his own pathway.  And I’ve moved on.  I’ve put together my own life and my own family and my own pathway.

And I heard something in his voice in that interview.  He mentioned that he was 74 years old.

Of the four people who I called parents in my lifetime, three have passed on.  My mother, my stepfather, and my father’s Wife #3.  My biological father is the only one still alive.

Throughout all this, I have to take into consideration a lot of things.  Do I want to forgive him for what happened in the past?  I can’t change the past any more than I can un-break a plate.

And there’s probably some readers that are saying, “You have to let this go, Chuck.  He’s never going to say he’s sorry for the past, and you’re not going to get any satisfaction even if he does.”

This is what I live with.  This is part of my feelings of being rejected and unwanted.  And what happened to me HAS affected me.  No question about it.

So what have I been able to do?

For starters, I always make sure to call my daughter Cassaundra every so often.  I’ll comment on her Facebook links.  I’ll send her a gift now and then.  Just so that she knows that I’m proud to be her father and that I would never cut her out of my life or ever consider her as some sort of superfluous by-product.

The second thing I do is try, every day, to be a good friend to those who would have me as their friend.  Suport.  Encouragement.  Prayer.  Commitment.  Trust.

And the third thing is to keep those who have hurt me in the past as far away from me as possible.  There is no reason at all for me to go through the kind of emotional wounding and conflict from those who would hurt me.  The 49th Resolution.  It’s tough to keep, but I try my best.

Thus begins the headline of today’s blog post.  When does forgiveness start?

As far as I’m concerned, and I’ve written about this in the past, forgiveness does not equate to absolution.  I cannot give absolution for what my father did to me.

And I can’t forgive the years of abuse and abandonment and exclusion.  I can’t do it.

But if there is anything I could forgive Bob Miller for… it might be this.

I would forgive him for not understanding what it means to be a parent.  That being a parent involves self-sacrifice, putting your needs aside for your child’s needs, being the support that your son or daughter needs in their life.

I would forgive him for never bothering to pick up the phone or send a message or even look out to see what his eldest son has achieved.  I think I did pretty well, under the circumstances.

I would forgive him for never being there for the big moments.  Or even for the small ones.

Even with all that – even as I’m halfway toward my 52nd year on this planet – I could forgive these small moments.

But that’s all I will forgive.

And there’s nothing of what he did that I will ever forget.  That’s for sure.

And when it comes time for me to account for everything I’ve done in this lifetime, the good, the bad, the amazing and the awful, I can simply say that I tried to be a better father to my kid than my father was to me.  As the old Boy Scout adage goes, I left the campsite in a better condition than the way I found it.

That’s all I can do.

I hope my father’s happy with his life.  I hope he’s enjoying everything he ever wanted.  And I hope he sells lots of stamps.

Because from what I can perceive from this, he cared more about little gummed pieces of postage than he ever cared about his son.

I’ll let you know if I can ever forgive that.

Because I certainly can’t ever forget that.