In the Spirit of Christmas: Is It Ever Too Late to Reunite with Your Father?

November 25, 2011  |  

I typically speak to my father twice a year. He calls me somewhere around my birthday, and then again on Christmas. This year, he put in a third call to make sure I wasn’t in danger of being swept away by Hurricane Irene, and in the past when his job has brought him to New York, he would reach out to me to meet up. Needless to say, we’re not close, and likely never will be. And I’m OK with that.

In an episode of “X Factor” this week, Kelly Rowland talked about wanting to reunite with her father for Christmas, recognizing that tomorrow isn’t promised. “I think it’s important to forgive people and move on, we have to,” she said. “The pain is there, of course it will be there, and it’s important to know that forgiveness is the first step towards healing it all.”

Earlier this year, Kelly’s father, who she hasn’t seen since she was 7, reached out to her publicly, hoping for a chance to right his wrong. Explaining how he began drinking heavily and fell into a depression after losing his job, he pleaded, “Kelly, I love you with all my heart. Please forgive me and let me be your dad again…I really hoped I would get to make it up to her. Sadly I am still waiting for that day. But I can’t give up hope.”

It sounds like that day has come for Christopher Lovett, 65. I can appreciate his effort to rebuild a relationship with his daughter—albeit delayed. His words are something I’ve desired from my own father for quite some time—admission that he wasn’t a father and a request for forgiveness. I know forgiveness isn’t supposed to be predicated on someone else’s behavior, but it can be hard to deal with someone who doesn’t acknowledge the absentee father elephant in the room. There have been times when my father and I have had great conversations and I’ve thought I could possibly stand to have some sort of relationship with him, but then an off-putting joke about how it must have been a breeze for my mother to raise me solo, or a discussion of school loan debt reminds me of how he wouldn’t help me with tuition and then I’m right back to where I was—not necessarily angry, but indifferent.

Indifference, to me, feels like a state in between hurt and healed. I’ve never taken my father’s absence as personal. I completely understand that having an unexpected child wasn’t an ideal circumstance and that his absenteeism has everything to do with selfishness, and perhaps even fear, and nothing to with who I am as a person. What I’ve neglected to realize is that forgiveness also has nothing to do with him. I’ve often felt like he isn’t deserving of the forgiveness he hasn’t asked for, and the fact that I still twinge with anger at some of the circumstances of my upbringing and his unwillingness to help me when I’m in need lets me know I’m not exactly healed.

I’m inspired by Kelly’s sense of understanding and her willingness to attempt to establish a relationship with her father after all of these years; and I commend her father for taking this step before it was too late. Their story makes me think twice about embracing the spirit of Christmas and forgiving my father for things of the past—not for his sake, but so I can move from indifferent to healed.

Do you think it can ever be be too late to reconcile with your father? Have you ever reunited with a loved one during the holidays? Were you happy you did or did you regret it?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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