[Robert Talk] Honoring The Person Who Played The Role of Father

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Below is the text of the beautiful essay about apology and compassion that Robert read. It's from the Sun Magazine, Issue #350 in 2005, written by reader Kathleen Kelley in the Apologies column. The link to that page is below:



"My father was the second oldest of seven children. His mother died of a brain tumor when he was seventeen. His father, a violent alcoholic who had beaten his wife, promptly abandoned the children. The younger ones were placed in foster care or in the Catholic Home for Working Boys. My dad kept track of them all, hoping to bring them together under one roof someday. He never did.

"My grandfather held an inexplicable grudge against my father. He would mail Dad postcards from seaports around the world that read, “Dear Jim, I’m alive, no thanks to you.” Toward the end of his life, my grandfather lived on the street in New York City. My dad paid the owner of a flophouse my grandfather frequented to make sure his father always had a meal and a bed. My grandfather died in that flophouse, of tuberculosis, sometime in the thirties.

"My father did not tell me these stories until I had kids of my own. By then I was mad at my dad because his own drinking had made our home a scary place for me as a child. I was mad at my mom because she’d been so passive, hardly ever getting out of bed. I was mad at my brother for leaving home and never looking back. I was mad at my sister for being everyone’s favorite. I felt the world owed me one big apology.

"My mom had plenty of time to apologize as she lay dying, but she didn’t. My dad didn’t apologize for his drinking, but he did get sober; that was apology enough for me. It was a pleasure to listen to him hum a tune as he stood on a ladder in my house, making electrical repairs for me and the kids.

"I am older now and have learned what a mistake it is to wait around for people to apologize. A wise person once said that holding on to anger is like eating rat poison and expecting the rat to die.

"No longer do I look down on people who offend me, extending forgiveness from my lofty perch. I understand now how limited we all are by circumstances, time, place, history, and luck. We humans are a frail lot; compassion seems to be the only thing that saves us."

Kathleen Kelley
Florence, Massachusetts

Sunday, June 16, 2019