12 October 2020
A message to my father
It’s been about 20 years since I last saw my father. I don’t remember the setting in which that last encounter took place. It had taken a few more years after that for me to realise that his physical abuse could have been considered criminal – I have publicly written about it. If I’m writing again today, it could possibly give the impression that I’m still not over all this.
I beg to differ. The reason I’m writing is because I still believe, perhaps naively, that people can change. Or at least that they can acknowledge all the wrong they have done before trying to repair what can be repaired (and sometimes there’s not much that can be done). The additional – arrogant – reason is because I think that I can find the words to help make those people change for the better. When I fail, it affects me, because I put too much effort and time in my endeavours.
It’s very likely that the trigger for my article is the psychopathic behaviour of my brother’s (soon-to-be) ex-wife, as I wrote in the October edition of my newsletter. Both she and my father displayed similar destructive symptoms, provoking my loss of sleep and nightmares.
So my goal is simple: to make the people who were hurt – my mother first and foremost, my siblings, and myself – feel a little better when they reminisce.
They didn’t ask me to do this. In fact, we never talk about that past: life moves on, with its load of new challenges to handle. Perhaps they don’t even think about the past that much; I certainly don’t think about it too often. Perhaps I may even accidentally unearth past wounds that are best kept cauterised. As I’m typing these words, I’m pondering that risk, trying to make sure I’m not being overly presumptuous in my capacity to change people. But I also think the white bear problem is at play: the past is always casting shadows on the present moment, when we encounter similar people (e.g. my brother’s ex-wife) or situations (e.g. the father-to-child relationship in the case of my two brothers with their own children).
I do wonder what goes through the mind of a 67-year old man – my father – who has lost all contact with his four children and never met his grandchildren. I wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place but if I had, wouldn’t I have tried all my life to apologise and make things better, perhaps starting by understanding I had committed something so bad that the current outcome was all of my doing, and my doing only?
We will all die. Why not make things a little bit more right before that happens, well before that happens. Why not do it now?
So here’s a practical guide for my father who may be lost in how to go about making things better, assuming he does care still:
First, apologise to my mother. How to do it? An email can be a start, sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; I’ll make sure it gets delivered to her. How to do it sincerely? By giving examples of the crimes he committed, why he was so wrong, and how he feels about it all. Yes, crimes. The word is not too strong. I wish it weren’t the truth but alas it is.
Second, apologise to my siblings and me, for all we had to endure, physically and psychologically. Likewise this can be sent to email@example.com with the same suggestions as above.
Third, donate money to my mother (30,000 euros), my siblings and me (100,000 euros each). Why those amounts? Because they’re tax free. Why is it about money? Because it’s not, at least on our side. Let me explain. I was personally involved in my parents’ divorce process during 10 f*cking years because my father fought for every nickel and dime. The family had a bit of wealth but it was frozen all that time because of my father’s lies and attempt at stripping my mother of anything (he partially succeeded, by the way). Yeah, the “classic” move. As a result, I couldn’t count on much financial support during my late teens and early adulthood, which was incidentally not so bad because it made me even more resourceful (probably too resourceful) and entrepreneurial. I wasn’t unhappy but I could have received better education (private tutorship to perform even better at some competitive exams) and could have spent a bit less time cooking as a student (in 3 years, I didn’t eat a single time at the campus cafeteria).
These donations are important because my father considered money more important than saving the little that could be salvaged from his relationship with his children. They are not important to any of us because we’re too old now for those to make any material impact on our lives. But the principle remains and would act as an additional step in doing what’s right. In fact, I would expect my father to know what to do next in that financial realm. The bank account numbers will be made available to him as soon as steps 1 (email to my mother) and 2 (email to my siblings and me) are completed.
None of these 3 actions mentioned above will guarantee any response from any of us. I still remember the condition that was put forward to me when I requested money from my father to be able to study: I would only get it if I agreed to meet with him. I refused, I didn’t get the money, so I didn’t study what I had been selected for. That incident is one of the few things in life I have no regrets about.
I’m not heartless though. Even though I’ll have a very hard time convincing my family that his apologies, should they ever be written, are sincere, I will objectively defend them, hoping to receive further signs of contrition over time. And then we shall see.
I don’t know if my father will ever read this. But I do hope, for his sake but also for ours, that he will seize that last chance before we all die.