Family Ties

The best part of my recent trip home was getting a chance to see my family without all the additional pressures of the holiday season. Since I was there for a whole week and hubs didn’t come with me (at first to save money, and then because he couldn’t get the time off work) I got to have some in person heart to heart chats with both my parents, and my semi-prodigal brother as well.

I’ve written about previously, my dad and I have gone through a rollercoaster of conflicts ever since the divorce, but I think we have finally come to a permanent detente. He and my brother…not so much. But in talking to them both I planted some seeds which I hope will bear fruit in the future. Fathers and sons tend to have combative relationships, and the issue here is compounded by the fact that my brother has all of our father’s stubbornness but also, all of our mother’s sensitivity. He was a quiet child, didn’t get into any sports until high school and even then he didn’t play football or basketball but soccer. It’s fair to say our dad just didn’t get him. He felt like my brother needed to toughen up.

But Dad lived through segregation and went to Georgia State University just two years after it integrated. There were no Black nerds or internet in his day. The world was much harsher. And in the past couple of years I have learned more about how my Dad grew up. That doesn’t absolve him from responsibility but you can’t do what you don’t know. By any objective measure he did far better for us than his parents did for him. There were times I was disappointed, and my feelings were hurt. But nothing he did prevented me from becoming a fully functional adult so what’s the harm in forgiveness?

Without getting bogged down in the details, suffice it to say that he did some things which were just wrong. But parents are people too. It was weighing me down to constantly be reacting to everything he did that I didn’t like. Once I accepted that it had nothing to do with me, I felt so much lighter. My dad got as close as I’ve ever heard him get to apologizing for past mistakes. He even admitted (not explicitly, but reading between the lines) that he was unnecessarily hard on me at times. He also admitted (without naming specific incidents) that he had done things wrong which he wishes he could do differently, but wants to do better for us now.

The current rift between my father and brother is because, on top of all this past baggage, he missed my brother’s engagement party because he had to work. This has happened to all the siblings but more so to my brother. This was especially egregious because it showed a lack of regard for my future sister in law. Of course, my dad had a seemingly reasonable explanation of how he had a client trip that ran over and had to fill in for another driver who called out that day (my dad runs a chauffeur business). But at a point in time, family has to come first and you need to just refund the client and tell them to call an Uber Black. My brother won’t accept anything other than a hat in hand, specific apology which he will probably never get. With any other person I would tell him he’s within his rights to cut the person off but this is our dad. And given the amount of upset my brother is feeling, I know he will one day regret it if they never make up. He’s nowhere near the level of not caring that is required to permanently exile someone from your life.

I just came to a point where I asked myself, do you want to be right or do you want to have peace? I wanted peace. Dad has messed up before and odds are he will do so again. But I have stopped expecting things from him that he can’t give. He loves me, he is proud of me, and if I need financial support I will get it. But his emotional support is often conditional. Fortunately I have my mother, my husband, my siblings and my friends. Those 10 people aren’t a substitute, but they keep me from feeling the lack too keenly. Nobody gets everything they want but I do have everything I need to create a happy life for myself. I’m just praying that my brother will discover he has the same.

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