My father divorced my mother and married her best friend. It’s an oversimplification of a difficult situation, but it also happens to be true. This woman who once was a daily fixture in my childhood home, who laughed and gossiped with my mother over coffee, is now his family and insists that we no longer are.
In 13 years I have seen him only once. He used the opportunity of this woman going on a vacation with her own children to slip away and finally meet mine. His eyes brimmed with tears as my family regaled him with the tales of the lives he has missed. He drank deeply of their presence and mine, and as the day finally wound to a close, he held me close and promised to try to come again … if he could.
He hasn’t. Yet.
After years of silence we have progressed to the occasional phone call on his way home from the office, calls that are short, impersonal and often interrupted by calls from her that cannot be ignored lest she know that he is once again in contact with me.
Through the years there have been harsh words and a lot of anger exchanged between his wife and me. Even though the fires of my enmity have cooled to a studied indifference, and I have apologized for what I have done and failed to do, she wants no part of me or my family to intrude into their lives.
I once spent a lot of time wavering between anger at her meddling and disgust at his weakness. The mother I am couldn’t understand a parent giving in to the pressure to abandon his children. I was much younger then, and time and the realities of life have a way of tempering all but the hottest fires and bringing shades of understanding.
These days, when I think of them, I spend a lot of time trying to empathize with them both. It must take a great deal of hurt and fear for someone to work this hard to prevent a father from seeing his children. It must take a great deal of hurt and fear to be willing to give up your family in the name of personal domestic tranquility.
I used to pray for God to soften their hearts toward me, but a year or so ago that changed. I prayed instead that he soften my heart toward them, and give me the wisdom to understand their decisions and the mercy to accept them.
It was only once I accepted my own sinful behavior that I could find peace enough to forgive theirs. It was then that I began to pray for them and to ask God’s forgiveness for my own failings.
Now when I pray for them, I begin, “Dear Lord, Please bless (my dad and his wife) and have mercy on me, a sinner.” It may not seem like much, but it is everything. It is a place to begin.
Rebecca Frech is a home-schooling mother and writer. Her blog Shoved to Them can be found at Patheos.com.