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Thirty Years Estranged

Reconciling with a Parent

Don't let the sun set on your disagreements. 

The relationship we have with our parents is by far and away one of the most valued and treasured connections we will have throughout our lives. But, what about those of us who have had strained relationships with one, or in some cases both, of our parents? Is this something that can be repaired?

As I sit writing this my father is dying, and after thirty years of estrangement, it's understandable to have an entourage of conflicting thoughts and feelings: ultimately leading to a reevaluation of myself and my relationship with my father.  

It's been a year since the family phone tree made the announcement and it will be a year in the spring since the doctors dropped the diagnosis of terminal lymphoma.  The cancer had spread rapidly and things were looking bleak.  Without any coaxing from family or hesitation of mind, I began preparing to visit the man I once knew as my father.

Several months later, with my family in tow, we made the long trip across five states. This man who greeted me was nothing close to what I had expected.  This wasn't the man I once knew, a burly scrapper who attended to his physique religiously, had wasted away to reveal a skeletal figure.  Bone structures I had never known to exist, high cheekbones that had once been fleshed out, protruded against hollowed out cheeks and sunken eyes.  

It was difficult to wrap my mind around the frail man standing before me.  How could this be my father?  Where had he gone?  It no longer mattered to me that he had been gone for nearly thirty years.  I was no longer concerned with wondering why he had done any of the things he had, at that moment all I could see was a sick man who hadn't even reached his sixties, far too young by today's standards, standing just outside death's door.

He had committed many crimes against his family... many, however I had been no different growing up.  As a rebellious teen who was angry at the world because of the loss of her father, I am quite guilty of having been a less than delightful person.

 It dawned upon me how hypocritical it would have been to continue condemning him for events that could never be changed.  People change every day, it's part of being human.  Along with these inevitable changes come alterations in our relationships.

A moment of clarity hit me as I watched his delicate figure seated across from me, he had become lost and wandered far from home, but somehow had managed to stumble upon the path which would bring him back.  It was clear I would never get the relationships I once had with him back, but perhaps there was a chance to build a new one.  

I've always been told that when it comes to relationships, no matter the kind, you should never let the sun go down on your anger.  I'd spent nearly thirty years being mad and several more feeling just numb. What good had it done me? All those years of anger and resentment was nothing more than wasted time.

My father's time is running short and I am left wishing I could have done more to have reconnected with him sooner, to have given him a chance to not only meet his granddaughter but get to know her as well. 

To anyone who is reading this, if it is possible, please rethink the lack of relationship you may have with your estranged parent(s). People do and can change for the better and you never know when the sun will set.

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