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My perspective of my father broadens- and with it my empathy

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   One time my father, who passed away four months ago, told me that I was "the best investment [he] ever made." 

   ... He didn't mean this to imply that I was a stock or some other asset or commodity, but as a praise of my worth, as a person (at least, that is what I believe). While my father made many errors in his parenting, he was remarkable at sharing beautiful heartfelt words. He once wrote me a birthday card, when I was in my twenties, in which he spoke of the beauty of nature; and he said of me, "You're part of that beauty." That bit of loving praise for his son is something I've held close to my heart ever since. 

   When my father passed on, I thought I knew the man. In the eyes of a son who had to survive too many traumas, he was deficient and lacking in almost every conceivable respect. Most hard to ignore or forgive, of his behavior, was his unwillingness to confront the denial that kept him from protecting me when I was a boy. I couldn't understand his seeming cowardice in refusing to face so much of his denial. 

   Like most people in life are forced to, I have grown humbler with time. And I have been forced to broaden my perspective as regards the man who my father was; and whether he was a "good" or "bad" father. 

   I reject the notion, now, of putting a "good" or "bad" label in front of any person; even of those people who brought me into this world. I prefer to think of this flawed man who raised me as a person much like anyone I've met, myself included. Some things he did resulted in a great deal of suffering on my part. Other things he said and did seemed to come from a genuine place of love and pride in his son. At the end of the day, it is not for me to judge this man; as I hope that no one will judge me for my deficiencies. So, you may wonder, what am I saying here? Am I suggesting a kind of moral relativism, in which we do not hold people accountable for their wrongs? 

   Absolutely not. I believe that we must take responsibility for our mistakes and wrong choices; as to do otherwise would be to deny that thing which we all have: free will. What I am saying is that I didn't know the hearts truth of the man who I so long condemned in my heart. What I am also saying is that my perspective of the man who I once wrote off as an "absolute failure" was lacking. I did see a part of the truth (my truth); but I could not then see the larger picture. I was too caught up in my own pain and fear and anger (hatred, more like it). Am I wrong for hating my father, or for being limited in my perspective? 

   Absolutely not. I have the same right to be human as he had! And I am far from flawless, I will own up to! 

   I don't know a lot, but I do know this: No one ever made this world a better place for telling someone what a horrible person they are; no matter how deserved of such criticism the teller felt they were. 

   I may have a broader perspective than I did when my father passed away, but I still don't know what was in the old man's heart; and I never will. I just know that my shaming words and verbal hatred towards the man never made him a better person. I know this because I have become the target, myself, for such emotional abuse from my brother; who has it certain that I am evil incarnate. I know that the shame that my brother throws at me, like the shame that I once threw at my father, encourages me in no way to better myself. In fact, it does just the opposite. Not long ago I found myself yelling at a telephone representative, who was asking me "What have I ever done to you?" In that moment I was passing on the hateful words that my brother has been directing my way. 

   I didn't know my dad, as regards the sum total of his measure as a person. I'm not God. I did know about the man; and, surprisingly, I am getting to know him more than I could ever have conceived of after he has passed on. Like we all do, whether we will admit it or not, I have become much like my father; for better or worse. This used to be my greatest fear. However, having seen more of the world, and myself most of all, I am proud of having some of his more positive traits. 

   My father was no angel. But, then again, this is not heaven. In a world such as this, I am inspired by those souls who genuinely do care; in the myriad of ways we do. By that measure, I believe that my father was a decent man. If I listen to my hearts own wisdom, I do believe that he cared a great deal

   I hope that I will not either ever demonize or idealize the very human person that my father was. I also hope that I will not hold myself to any greater measure than simply being a flawed person, who cares. That, I am quite certain, is enough

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