Last week my dad was admitted to the hospital. As it turned out, he'd basically drunk and smoked himself to near death. He now has congestive heart failure, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and alcohol induced dementia. He doesn't fully understand what's going on; his brain has atrophied after decades of alcohol abuse.
When I first heard the news, I wasn't sure how to feel or what to think. How does one feel when something bad happens to an almost total stranger? My parents separated when I was 15 years old. They divorced two years later. When my dad moved out, he cut himself off from his family, divorcing himself from his four boys, too. Since then, my relationship with my dad has consisted of, maybe, four brief conversations in 27 years.
Following my parent’s divorce, my dad moved in with his longtime girlfriend. Soon they married and started a family. My brothers and I watched our mom suffer through a depression that lasted for years.
There were race issues, too. My dad's new wife, the woman who broke up our family, was white. I won't go into the complexities this added to the situation, but I thought my dad finally had what he wanted — light-skinned children with straight hair. But when that marriage failed, too, he cut himself off from those children.
Today I don't hate my dad. The reason? My mom.
My mom was the ultimate model of Christian reconciliation and forgiveness. She forgave my dad. She forgave the other woman. It took a few years, but in time, she treated them both not with resentment, but with love. There were many times when my mom did things that made no sense to me. I didn't understand the many acts of kindness she bestowed on my dad and that other woman — blessings she continues to give even today.
Then, I thought my mom's actions revealed an awful weakness that made me feel ashamed. Today I view my mom's actions with honor and pride. Her example of strength, courage, forgiveness, selflessness, her unwavering faith in God provides a path that I want to follow to becoming a better person.
Last week, I contacted my dad at the hospital, as did two of my three brothers (the other will call, too, I'm confident). Calling him wasn't hard to do. I just thought about my mom, and I did what I thought she would do.
So, what was she doing? She was at the hospital, visiting my dad. He called her first, the one person in this world he could depend on in his greatest hour of need.