“How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?” * Dick Lourie

My father was a drinker.

My father could be a Fucking Bastard.


There I said it.

I need to tell the whole truth if I am going to tell any of it.


My father was not a drunk like my mom;

He could turn it off.

But man, he could be an asshole when he was drinking.

He quit when I was 16 years old.

My mom  left us;

I mean she left with my sister.

In this there is a lie;

one I will touch  when I am ready to mess with “Family Secrets”

Mommy left  us after he lost everything.

All of it gone and Mommy too.

I stayed with Daddy.

Daddy ended up in ICU, given up for dead.

His ulcer bled through his stomach.

The doctor told me, “We do not expect him to last through the night.”

There you have it.

My mom would not talk to me on the phone.

My aunt told me to leave him there.

My mom would not talk to me that night as I sat in the ICU,

16 years old,

waiting for my father to die.

This is what Daddy told me

as he was tethered to machines keeping him alive

“I am going to get your mother back honey. I will and we will be together again.

You will see.”

And I did.

He lived. He got her back.

He did.

He quit drinking after that.

Let me back up on some honesty here:

He only quit because it hurt too much to drink.

He hated pain more than he loved drinking.


That is honest.

He did not die that night.

He quit drinking.

He got my mother back.

My mother never talked to me on the phone.



Every story is a long one

and every story is a short one.

I am going a long way round the short story….


Here is a poem that resonates.

I can read it substituting Mother for Father

I can read it leaving Father Be.

I can not read it without thinking of both the Long and the Short Stories.

We all got stories.

We do.


I first heard this beautiful poem in a movie Smoke Signals.

I highly recommend the movie.

Related Posts:

My father probably saved my life. Things are complicated:

Stronger at the Broken Places?

Related blogs:

Footprints * How Do We Forgive Our Fathers

The film Smoke Signals written by Sherman Alexie


How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?

by Dick Lourie

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?

Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.

Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?

Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?

If we forgive our Fathers what is left?

* This poem  was
originally published in a longer version titled “Forgiving Our
Fathers” in a book of poems titled Ghost Radio published by Hanging
Loose Press in 1998

~ by Step On a Crack on May 3, 2012.

25 Responses to ““How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?” * Dick Lourie”

  1. Yes, Jen, we all got stories. I believe your honest and courage to share yours is helping so many others face theirs. peace xo


  2. It is great to find such honesty and openess in your words Jen. I think many will be helped by you in the months to come. Keep it going!


  3. I may reblog if i can? xo mel


  4. Quietly applauding, loudly praising you for telling the truth as you can see it. I believe we’re protected from some truth because we just can’t handle it. As you’re getting stronger you will see more, honestly, you will! As you see it and recover, you’ll say more. I know you will. I wait. I listen. I applaud. It’s marvelous to see you doing the work.


  5. Man. My stories resonate with this. Thank you .


  6. I feel sucker-punched.
    Oh dear, dear,Jen.
    The pain of your almost non-existent childhood literally makes my heart ache.
    You are wonderful. And you are brave for knowing your story, the unedited version, and for putting those words on paper.
    I love you, my dear friend,


  7. Truly, Jen, you are amazingly courageous to tell the tale. By the way, I love the movie “Smoke Signals”. The only things I know about “forgiveness” are that it’s HARD, it doesn’t seem fair or just, and I HAVE to–because Jesus says so, and because it is the only road to healing for me. (And to my surprise–lol–it’s not a one-time thing; it is on-going…yeah, that bites some days.) God bless you Big, Jen–love,sis Caddo


  8. I loved your poem more than his. I was drawn in and the reader can see life through your eyes.
    My mom kept me away from my dad, so I never knew him. He was an alcoholic and died in a motel room when I was 17. I was sorry I never met him and that he died alone.


    • Lisa, I am SO glad we have connected. Thank you for being here!

      I am sad to hear of how your dad died and that you were not given the chance to know him. That is something with little concrete resolution.
      I am hoping that your mom had good reasons for doing what she did.

      Peace, Jen


  9. i didn’t read the poem you put because i found all the poetry was in your post.

    “Every story is a long one

    and every story is a short one.

    I am going a long way round the short story….”

    Beautiful. Thank you for inspiring.


    • Al, i’m with you! I find the poetry in Jen’s words. The other folks can shine on their own time 😉 love you, J, mel


      • Oh you two! Aww Shucks! REALLY Dick Lourie is brilliant.

        Have you seen Smoke Signals or Pow Wow Highway? Both are excellent films.

        Love you sweetie!



    • Dear Al,

      Wow. Thank you very much my Friend. I gotta say though: read the poem it is fantastic! Better yet See the film Smoke Signals! NOT kIDDING..

      I would not steer you wrong.

      Peace, Jen


    • Haven’t seen those films … Will have to check them out ! XO


      • They are fantastic; both of them. They are funny and touching and sad and deep and funny. ALL of it.

        I bet you would like them. XOXO Jen


      • Awesome. Thanks for the recommendations. Right now would be a good time to rent one .. D and i are gardening today, (not at the moment, however) i’m not that talented, you know, typing and digging in the MUD. We’re having thunderstorms and tornado watches. xoxooxox mel


  10. My mother drove to colorado to bring you, your sisters and your mother to live with us in Iowa. You were there. I was there. You went on a high school trip to Mexico. Your father moved to Iowa years later. What movie were you in?


    • Cath,

      First let me be the first to let you know that William Haines was born last night in Bournemouth England! Mom and Baby are doing well! I sent a package to your mom. I did not have her phone number so I put yours on the shipping label. I hope that is ok. I sent some of Mommy’s things and copies of her favorite books with her favorite passages marked.

      NOW, I was not in the car with you to Iowa. I said goodbye to mommy and my sisters the night before they left. I chose to stay with Daddy and stayed for many months. I took care of him after he left ICU. I went to school, maintained a 4 point and worked 30+ hours a week. I paid for the exchange trip to Mexico and chose to live with Daddy and finish high school in Colorado.

      Mommy NEVER spoke to me when your mom called: never. She did not answer any of my letters. Not one. Your mom told me on the phone that my sister was being harassed on the bus and that I needed to move to protect my sister. It was the hardest decision I have EVER made. I moved because I thought my sister was in danger. FAR from it. The kids in Solon were the nicest kids on the planet. There was zero harassment. I went to Solon high for 15 days and spent 2 months in the Summer at your folks house. I know that Mommy and the sisters were there for a much longer time. I took a bus to cedar rapids. I left my home and Daddy because I had been led to believe that my sister was in trouble. Mommy found a job and DADDY provided a car and we left in August. Mommy found an apt in section 8 housing and I finished high school at City High. I worked 30+ hours, and carried a 4 point. I paid for college also. No biggee. I think you were at Coe at the time. I know you were living in CR and hanging at the maidrite during the few months I lived with your parents.

      I have every single letter daddy wrote to mommy and to us girls while they were separated.

      I am forever grateful that your parents took my mom and my sisters and I in. I have written countless thank you letters. I am grateful for the landing spot they gave my mother. That is what I would do for my sister too. Family does that. Jean and Jack took care of mommy and that was very kind and generous. I do not know how many times I need to say thank you. Daddy insisted that we NOT divulge how Chris died out of respect for Jean and Jack AS PARENTS. That is also saying thank you.

      Chris, your brother, lived with us or my parents off and on for most of his life as an adult. They paid for his food and helped him find work each and every time he was fired. Chris often worked for Daddy; he was often unemployable. Daddy bailed him out of jail several times and tried to get him to quit drinking. Chris spent the last couple yearsof his life unable to work at all, living in my parents house. Chris lived with us for years and years and years. Not one of us EVER expected a thank you. We were raised to believe we were to help one another without thought of what we gained by it. WWJD? Kind of like that.

      Mommy and Daddy reunited and they split up throughout my entire life. Daddy was cut off by his parents when he married mommy. His parents disapproved of the marriage as did Ernie. Daddy gave up an education at the U of M to marry mommy and have me. Mommy was going to abort me. It would have been her second back alley abortion. Ernie arranged for the first in Chicago when Mommy was 18 and long before she met my father. Mommy told me all about it. I can fill in the details if you want by email. I have letters to prove it.

      Daddy fell in love during their longest split, was going to remarry and Mommy refused to give him a divorce. Mommy moved into the house by the pond and that is where they died: Chris and Daddy. Daddy told me to Never ask about the woman he loved. I did not. I DO know she was at his funeral. I DO know that.

      So, THAT is the movie I am in. How bout you?

      Cath, WHY do you even read this? Why?



      • Wow–that’s a lot of stuff that I guess you intended for me to read. First, congrats on your new nephew–that’s great! Second, I’m so glad you have found support for your writing. And don’t worry any more about any “Thanks” to my family–that’s in the past. Third, the package arrived at my mom’s house. Finally, I actually don’t read your blog. I just happened across this post when I was out of town and needed to verify Kay’s date of death ( I remembered the picture with her dates). Honestly, I can’t imagine how people have time to read this stuff and to even comment on it regularly. I have a life that keeps me occupied, fulfilled and happy. Also because I find this blog full of information that is not accurate about my family which is sad and disrespectful of you. For example, I told you in an email that I do know how my brother died (and so does the rest of my family) so don’t worry about keeping that “secret” from any of my family if you happen to talk/email etc directly with us. In addition, you might be interested to know that several members of my family talked to my brother during all his years on this earth and your story conflicts with this information as well. So if I had any interest in whatever you feel you are doing here, it would simply be to ask you not to post misinformation about my family. If you would like to reply or contact me feel free to do it here if you must (for your fans?), but if you want me to read it, send it to my email. I’m here today because I was curious to see if you erased my post as you had done with the others way back when I first read a couple of your posts. See you in the real world–or the movies?


      • Cath,

        People read because they like to read.

        People read all kinds of things and that is the wonderful thing about Words.

        There it is. We are done here.



      • I am glad this is resolved??? At least that’s how i interpret your comment to Catherine. May I add my two cents: She is jealous! You are an amazing woman, and many people are jealous. This happens in your family a lot it seems. xo Mel


  11. I’m curious too. HI Jen! xo mel


    • Thanks my Friend. It is a wonder. WHY read this?

      This blog is about recovery, alcoholism, alcoholics dementia and writing. That is it. If you are not interested in any of this then this blog is not for you. I am more than happy to go through family counseling and discuss things in a therapeutic setting. Daddy and I did that. Mommy refused. I am not willing to engage any further outside a therapeutic setting with family members.

      Wow. Weird huh? Thanks Mel as always. Long time you have been there for me. XXOO Jen THE BABY ROCKS that is what counts….


      • I’m so excited for you! You have a new nephew who you love! He is great, Andrea is great, you are great (always working on more and more greatness) … and i admire you for not letting your shards loose 😉

        NOTE: Exploding heads are my expertise … so you always have the option of reacting to a NEGATIVE, distant, family member calmly and [curiously] or letting it rip. As you know … warzones are more familiar than Peace … and that is still the challenge of the recovery journey: Seeking peace and calm, CHOOSING peace and calm over SHRAPNEL head! 😉 (referring to good old Mel, more than fab. Jen). We are really ALIVE, that’s all i have to say. ALIVE … the rest is gravy. Well … i’m enjoying gravy (well dark chocolate) more and more as opposed to just breathing. Breathing is good. AAAAAAAA! Love MEL


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