Their Reality: Is It Really That Cut and Dry?
I had just entered the house when I heard my mother’s voice calling my name. As a fifteen year old my first thought didn’t have me noticing anything special in her tone, but upon first glimpse of her it was apparent she was overwhelmed with something. I am sure most of us have experienced a moment where we knew, deep within the pit of our stomachs, that something was extremely amiss. That was one of those moments for me. My mom then said the words that seemed to lift me out of the reality of our moment and into a reality that felt as if I was living someone else’s life. I remember both thinking to myself while I was asking myself did she just say what I thought she said? Did Mama just say “your father was shot and killed today…” Damn, she did!
I remember not shedding a tear that day, or days, weeks, even years after that moment. I had too much anger in me to allow even one tear to slide down my cheek. Why would I cry for a man who walked the earth for six years prior to the moment of his death, but not find time to see his son! I felt much contempt for this man who was my father but never really my daddy. While not necessarily hating him, I hated what he stood for, or didn’t take the time to stand for. It would be years before I would shed a tear on his behalf or on my behalf for him, or for myself. Eventually I did though, and there is one film which invokes those tears every time I see it. The film is Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals! The scene is towards the end of the film when the main character, Victor (played by Adam Beach), is trying to come to terms with the death of his father and goes to disperse his father’s ashes off a bridge. Maybe it is the way this scene is packaged, but I can’t get past this scene without a flood of tears racing down my face. I can take a deep breath, steel my nerves, and convince myself it is only a movie. But the bottom line is always the same, I find myself crying for a man that just didn’t seem to care enough to love me! As Victor tosses the ashes off the bridge his thoughts are revealed in somewhat of a poetic fashion:
How do we forgive the sins of our fathers? Do we forgive them 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 in their deaths, saying it to them? Or not saying it? If we forgive our fathers... what is left?
How do we forgive the sins of our fathers or as a matter of fact, the sins of our parents? Who is it actually that we should be trying to forgive in some cases, our father, mother, both parents, or the society that prevented them, inhibited them, from being all they could be? How important is it to find a context that at least gives us access to better understand their decision-making process so that we aren’t judging them by a modern day standard that isn’t applicable to the time they lived in? Is the thought of forgiving our fathers/mothers really fair when often times we really have only a limited version of the story? Is it really that cut and dry?