1% Forgiveness is Hard.

Here is where storytelling becomes complicated. I have wanted to be cogent and tell this in a chronological way. And then I took my father’s death certificate in hand.

Chronologically that was the next step. My father’s death led to me caring for my mother and discovering over the following years,  the depth of her dementia and the extent of her continued drinking.

Storytelling in this case is an attempt to find 1% Forgiveness for the woman who broke my ribs; the woman I call Mommy.

Adult children of alcoholics we are called. We have a tendency to block out the bad stuff; you grow adept at denial. It is a skill set: denial, silence, and secrecy; all well-developed tools we use to make it through the night or the week or  the rest of our lives.

Holding my father’s death certificate last night led to remembering a conversation with the doctor. I recalled talking to Ralph the day after my father died about my mothers state of confusion and distraction the night my father died. Remembering what had been forgotten set back the old Forgiveness clock.

A storytelling glitch is upon us; chronology be damned.

The truth is this: my mothers dementia was so severe even then that she was unable to call 911. I know this now with the hindsight of the last 6 years battling my mother, her drinking, her ultimate forced medical detox and committment to a nursing home.

Hindsight is part of this journey. If, as an adult child of an alcoholic, I choose to put down the tool box and look at this thing through the eyes of a grown woman with 20 years of recovery under her belt, the truth is my mother was incapable of dialing 911 and my father died.

I asked the doctor the night my father died, “Was he in pain for long?”,  the doctor paused and then replied, “Yes. Excruciating pain for some time.”

And I am looking for 1% forgiveness? Really? I am going to dial this back to .05 % Acceptance.

My mother was irritated the day after my father died. I arrived from Colorado and found her cleaning the living room rug. She had been cleaning up the dog shit the paramedics had tracked through the house. I could not tell if my mother was angry at Fred, my fathers dog for shitting while my father died or if she angry at the paramedics for tracking the shit across the room as they tried to revive my father.

Last night, holding the death certificate,  I remembered how vulnerable my mother looked that day. She had not cried; that was not her way and still her eyes were hollow. The house was quiet and we sat in silence.

The chair my father died in was across the room and the curtains were open. The Winter light glanced over the Iowa snow drifts. My mother had prisms hanging in the window and the light glided around the room.

The sun reflecting off the snow sent  blue light through the window and  into the room.

I sat with my mother in silence. I sat with her in the room my father died in the night before. My mother sat staring out the window at what had not long ago been a pond. I would watch as my mother stood at the window in the Summer. She watched my father swim in the pond with Fred. She watched Daddy swim in circles with Fred at his heels.

My mother loved my father in the way she could love anyone. She loved him more than she was capable of actually.

We were silent for a very long time and then she said, “Your father was unresponsive. He was just not responsive.”

I realized then that perhaps my mother was unaware of what had happened.

“Mommy,” I said, “Daddy is dead. He died last night.”

My mother said nothing and tears began to run down here face, silent, steady tears. I had only seen my mother cry a couple of times in my life.

She did nothing to wipe her tears and I crossed the room to sit near her. The couch looked out the window at the place that once held the pond and my father and Fred, the dog, on Summer days in Iowa.

The chair my father died in was next to me and so was my mother; still crying silently with the news that her husband was gone.

The Winter sun on the snow, that special light that only falls on heavy Iowa snow flooded the room.

My mother did not call 911. My father did die.


My mother loved my father more than she was capable of loving anyone.

1% Forgiveness. This is possible. And this is Hard.

~ by Step On a Crack on October 1, 2011.

5 Responses to “1% Forgiveness is Hard.”

  1. Wow. I’m tired, it’s Saturday night … i’m getting ready to go to bed. I have, indeed had a pumpkin beer, and i feel guilty. I feel awful. You see, the disease of alcohol-related/dysfunctional family dynamics makes you feel eternally filthy! You feel shame in all you do. Everything you do is criminal. If you are not spending your days and nights “covering” for the “sick” disenfranchised adult in your life — or listening to their problems — or trying to fix them — you are SELFISH, WORTHLESS and disrespectful. How dare you enjoy a pumpkin beer … how dare you have a life. You are, at once and forever, indebted to protecting and hiding their lies, and concealing your truths from everyone and anytone. Everything in your life is secondary. You don’t realize it. I don’t think therapists realize it. It’s as if your life is someone else’s original “sin” — you have taken on their diseased soul. Your own identity and soul is forbidden in a “sick framework”. In a family of sick people … the one who has strength or vision outside the disease IS the “problem” … and now i will say good night … and IT IS ME saying goodnight.


    • Mel, You nailed it on the head. YOU know it is YOU saying goodnight. That is success over the disease; ” A baffling, cunning and powerful” disease. I am done trying to ‘fix’ my mom. The only person I can fix is me. Mel you have a Pure and Healthy Soul and you always have had. I See you and You are an amazing woman. Sweet Dreams my friend!!!


  2. I don’t know what part of Iowa you’re from, but I know Iowa. I was 57 when I left there. It’s another bond we have…that shared Midwest ethic and perspective.

    I love this post because of the way you painted the picture of that day after and generously let us see your Mom’s reaction in her dementia-riddled state, yet you don’t sound bitter or morose. I am so glad that you are aware of the need for forgiveness. It will come, in time, I pray.

    That ‘special light’ akin to the winter brightness will shine for you, too.

    20 years…AA or Al-Anon?


    • I was in Iowa City from my senior year into college at the U of I. My mom left my dad (again) and we ended up there from Colorado. My father moved to Iowa within the first year and won my mother back (again). I also worked as a community organizer during the farm crisis traveling all over Iowa. It is a Fine state filled with Good people!

      Sometimes I think being the adult child of an alcoholic helps take the edge off. Sounds weird BUT you have just lived through so much you learn to tell your truth as you saw it: this happened, Yes it did. Or you can walk the Pity Party Path and that goes no where. I intend to tell the rotten truth of my moms struggle and it is not a pretty picture. I think it needs to be told because we need to acknowledge the terrible destruction alcohol can cause. It just lays waste… I don’t know if I will always be in Forgiving mode. It will be a brand new journey with some bitterness and resentment and some love and forgiveness. I hope more of the later than the former.

      I was in AA for years and then switched to alanon once I realized my addiction stemmed from my issues growing up with alcoholics. I have found Alanon to be more helpful for me. I especially like women only meetings. I started AA the week of my 30th birthday 20 years ago last week. Wild isn’t it?


  3. […] 1% Forgiveness is Hard […]


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