I was fortunate enough in this world to have had two fathers, both of whom raised me in turns. In the stubbornness youth, I often referred to both of them by first name, reserving the appellation “Dad” for special occasions when I either wanted something or wanted them to feel special–selfishness was another unfortunate consequence of youth.
Once, at some family occasion–the details of which I’ve long since forgotten–one of my aunts chided me for not calling my biological father “Dad.” She pointed out that I was hurting his feelings. I think in that moment I wasn’t wise enough to fully understand the wisdom behind her words.
My fathers were brothers, which makes for interesting and occasionally awkward family tree discussions with people who didn’t know my family in my childhood. My mother married and divorced both of them, not concurrently of course.
As we all do in life, both men had their share of triumphs and tribulations, mistakes and moments of greatness. Both men are now deceased, having passed away within five years of each other.
The Dad who raised me but didn’t conceive me was consumed by pancreatic cancer in March of 2010. The Dad who conceived me, but through his own transgressions robbed himself of the right to have daily direct influence on my upbringing was taken out of this world by brain cancer just yesterday morning.
Some may find it difficult to understand how I could both forgive and love both men, how in their absence I think fondly of them both as my Dads. I cannot paint acquired wisdom and peace onto the minds and hearts of my brethren, but I pray fervently and often for it.
I do know that a man’s choices in life are between him and Heavenly Father. I know that another person’s ticket to the Celestial Kingdom is not contingent upon my forgiveness, but that I can rest assured Heavenly Father will remember how I spoke of and treated others, no matter which side of the veil the objects of my harsh words cab be found on.
I wasn’t raised with “Don’t speak ill of the dead!” as a standard of conduct necessarily, but certainly heard the phrase repeated in pop culture often enough to recall it when faced with the news of someone’s passing. Still, I never fully understood why people sat around wakes bullet listing accomplishments and anecdotes as though the deceased were a candidate for sainthood.
In previous blog entries one might find me personally attacking either man and possibly other human beings for their actions. I might have claimed to have forgiven, but certainly was not living that forgiveness.
Being older and mildly wiser at this juncture of my life, I get it now. I understand the importance of seeing the good in all mankind. I understand how someone can think fondly of a mass murderer’s oratory prowess or insist that a committer of infanticide was always a good mom.
Every tombstone in a cemetery represents a human being. Many more human beings have no physical monument to their existence. The only truest and greatest legacy of a person is how they’re remembered in the minds and hearts of their kinfolk. Family stories passed down from generation seek to either build up or tear down the esteem of future progeny.
I want my children to learn about the men who raised me through a positive light. I want them to witness a Christlike love in all of my dealings on this Earth. If I can forgive, I can heal, and I can show my children that love. I want them to inherently and vehemently believe that it is wrong to gossip about the living and wrong to speak ill of the dead.
Someone once said the dash on our tombstone represents all of our years between birth and death, and that we should make the dash count. Since it is not up to me to decide the eternal fate of anyone, the only parts of their dash that I should deliberately remember and repeat should be the best parts.
Sure, we should learn from the failings of our ancestors, but we shouldn’t hold those shortcomings against them.
My Dads taught and gifted me many things. Whatever they’ve done in my life, good or bad, only served to influence the woman I am shaping up to be, and I know they loved me. They were unfailingly human.
My biological father was a talented actor, comedian, and vocalist. He was a strong orator. He taught me to take pride in my appearance, my home, and my cooking. He was a good listener, yet a font of advice. From him, I gained an almost flawless ability to compose a hyperbolic potential outcome to any given situation, certainly handy when dealing with children who throw out “Why?” with every directive issued to them. The skill is also undoubtedly applicable in the embellishment of my prose.
My stepfather taught me the importance of being studious. He also taught me frugality and the value of hard work. He instilled in me a desire to keep and maintain an immaculate and organized household, even if I do not always adhere to his original guidelines. He cultivated my love of literature and learning. He impressed upon me an innate desire to investigate every situation, speculate, gather evidence, interview personages as needed, and compose a final report–if only in my head. I surely have him to thank for my ability to create a plotline.
I would say I regret allowing the pain of my youth prevent me from cultivating in-person relationships with these men in my adulthood, but part of the healthier, happier person I’m trying to become through Heavenly Father is forgiving myself for my own shortcomings and seeking change. I still have my Moms–I desire to build positive relationships with them on this side of the veil.