I Forgive You for Not Being Perfect, Dad

Father and Son

My Real Memoir

Mark Twain famously said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

It took me longer than that.

My father died at just 45 years old, and has been gone for nearly fifty years. Longer than I knew him. And yet he impacted every aspect of my life, although I couldn’t see it at the time. We seemed to have nothing in common. Dad was a child of the Great Depression, a manly Marine, and a staunch right-winger. I was an only child who wanted for nothing (but always wanted something), a sensitive artsy-fartsy type who loved musical theatre (how is it I turned out straight?), with a liberal heart that was quick to bleed.

By the time I started high school, I was too absorbed in myself to realize how much a part of me my father was. His temper, his ambition, his love for science-fiction, his eye-rolling puns. But more importantly, his passion to do right: it wasn’t until he died nine years later that I learned how many people admired him, how many he’d encouraged and treated kindly.

Every Christmas Eve we’d drop off a gift for his answering service lady on the way to our family gathering. I’d squirm impatiently as Dad held her knotted hands and chatted her up. She had advanced rheumatoid arthritis and was confined to a wheel chair. I had no idea what was wrong with her; I just knew I was uncomfortable when Dad insisted I bend down and give her a hug, which she received as though it were a bag of jewels. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember her name. Only after she passed did Dad break down and buy an answering machine. Oh, how I wish I’d treated her more kindly.

Like Dad did.

It took me longer than Mark Twain to understand my father. I dearly wish he and Mom had been here for the just-passed holidays, so I could tell him how grateful I am for the things he did get right.

Dad was long gone by the time I became a father at 39, the age he was when I graduated from high school! So I finally finished forgiving him for not being perfect by watching my own children work to forgive me. Yes, I forgive you, Dad. Do you forgive me? Never mind, I know you do. Oh, and I’m a bit late with this, but…

Merry Christmas, Dad!

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to I Forgive You for Not Being Perfect, Dad

  1. Paula Light says:

    Wonderful tribute!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Pingback: The Day the Magic Died | Mitch Teemley

  3. It’s amazing how difficult it is/was for our generation (at least the male species) to deal with our fathers. Almost all of my friends had similar problems. But now, especially as I get older, I realize what a great person he was. My father was also a child of the great economic crisis. But how my parents developed despite the hardship, how they cared for us children and then managed to achieve a certain level of prosperity is quite remarkable.

    With us here, all parents were not only concerned with raising the children and building a house, it was primarily about conveying values and living them themselves. And for that they deserve the utmost respect.

    Liked by 9 people

  4. My husband still struggles with it. His dad died at age 48, while Guy was serving in Vietnam. It’s taken a lifetime.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I’m grateful that my dad was always my hero, but that could be because I was a girl, and he was a romantic type that would bring my mother flowers – and once gave me a basket of sweetheart roses and baby’s breath when I was sick. He was my source of self-esteem. When he had Alzheimer’s, he never forgot who my sister and I were, but somehow forgot that anyone had met us. He insisted on proudly introducing us to the entire nursing home staff and residents every time we came to visit.
    Since he’s been gone, I’ve been surprised at how many times I quote him – the funny but wise things he’d say. I can feel his presence sometimes, smiling at me when I reach a goal, or just when I think of him and smile. I miss him … as you’ve probably guessed.

    Liked by 9 people

  6. A wonderful tribute Mitch. I can relate to much of what you wrote. My father was a tough one. He was tough to live with, but it is interesting to me, how over time I’ve come to better understand him. I see now that his anger wasn’t with me, but the challenges he faced. It took me having my own kids and seeing them into adulthood to better understand where he was coming from. It’s been 19 years since he died. But, like an onion, I find I’m continuing to learn more about him and much more appreciative for what he gave me. I’d give much to have one more conversation with him to see where it would go. In any event, well said and thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 6 people

  7. The Hinoeuma says:

    Wow. My dad just passed Aug. 25, 2022. I am still working on the “forgiving” part…

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Heidi Viars says:

    Oh Mitch, this hit my heart. My father is still alive, in his 80’s, in Germany. I think he could have been your father’s brother. About fifteen years ago I sent my father a letter, asking him to forgive me. He sent me a letter back, asking for forgiveness, too. He said he forgave me. We never spoke about our exchange. I kept his letter to me. It’s one of the most precious gifts from him to me. When I mentioned it to my mom the other day, she said,
    “Yes. Your father has kept your letter all these years. He keeps it in his safe, his vault.”
    Forgiveness. Is there anything more precious? More worthy of safe-keeping, worthy of locking away, as if in a vault?
    Thanks for sharing this. It blessed me.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Anonymous says:

    Heartfelt, just beautiful! Though I have experienced much of the same, I could not have expressed it as eloquently as this! Thank you, Mitch.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. My dad died when I was ten and although he has been gone 70+ years his influence shaped me. I never had him long enough to build up any resentment that would call for forgiveness. I miss that part of life.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. What a wonderful tribute to your dad, Mitch. I’m so glad you’ve been able to forgive him. I’m sorry you lost him so long ago and when you were relatively young. It certainly sounds like his heart was in the right place, even if it didn’t feel like that at the time. Isn’t it odd how we can’t always see how alike we are to our parents until after they’ve gone?

    I’m having a hard job forgiving my father, who died just over ten years ago. He was a very mean man, abusive to me and very much to my dear Mum, who I lost six years ago. I wrote a poem about him a couple of weeks ago. However, recently, I’ve found myself thinking, I wonder what made my father like that in the first place. He never really spoke about his childhood, so I guess I’ll never know. It’s very different with my Mum. I notice, more and more, how like her I am, and I am getting more so as I get older.

    I’m so glad you’ve been able to forgive your dad and have that peace in your heart, though. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Ah, what can one say? Sentivity comes when looking back from a time of one’s own parenthood. Generously written with kindness and respect.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Pingback: I Forgive You for Not Being Perfect, Dad — Mitch Teemley – Jwls Mac Ray

  14. SC says:

    Great read. Made me tear up.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. An Audience of One says:

    Beautifully stated, Mitch! Having children really does change our perspective, even looking backwards.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I was moved by your loving tribute to your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. #hood says:

    how was mitch at age 46

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This brought back so many memories and slapped me in the face with the reality that I could have been so much more understanding of my parents. For a long time I thought my parents didn’t understand me but it was I who didn’t understand them – until I became a parent and apparent. How we squander the little time we are afforded.
    A poignant write, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Patrick Cole says:

    Beautiful post, Mitch. Thank you for your openness.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Such a sweet, touching post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Beautifully crafted and wise, Mitch. We resent our dads until we realize they were giving us the best they had–usually once we figure out how hard life is, especially that parenting thing. God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This made me ponder all my would’a, could’a, should’as with my parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. This is beautifully written, Mitch, and I think it’s wonderful that you have found some resolution and peace in your relationship with your father. My dad died eleven years ago and to say that our relationship was complicated and left with unfinished business is an understatement. I have had an ongoing dialogue with his ghost since he died–well really more of a monologue since he doesn’t say anything back. Well, maybe I’ll sort out some of that in my own writing. Your post certainly inspired reflection and thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Kara Luker says:

    Beautiful tribute, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Ann Coleman says:

    I think we really know we’re adults when we finally figure out that our parents didn’t have to be perfect to love us and be good parents, and that we’re okay with their imperfections. Thanks for this lovely post, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. So, was it not long after your father died that you became a devout Christian? Did his death have a hand in your acceptance of your newfound faith? I always thought the animosity teenagers and young adults had towards their parents was Mother Nature’s way of helping the kids want to leave the nest before the parents decided to kick them out. Great account, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      I wasn’t consciously aware of my dad’s death playing a role in my conversion, Nancy (although I’m sure it did). Before his death I’d moved away from my earilier atheism toward a vaguely pantheistic deism, but was still searching. I became a convinced Jesus follower three years after he died.


  27. Thotaramani says:

    Even I too Love My Dad! I think we should respect them when they are alive👍🏻💐🎇

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Well said, Mitch. It reminds us of a poignant song, The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Juliet says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I miss my father every day and really appreciated this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Such a sweet, tender memorial, All it takes to absorb me is a story about fathers.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s