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A Father’s Gift - Part 4 (An Open Letter of Closure and Finality)

Dad, I’ve spoken to you in the first three parts of this series. I’ve laid my life out for anyone and everyone, in any part of the world, to see.

Yes, maybe I’ve hoped that you might see these and they might remind you of why I might have had some of the problems which I’ve had. Maybe I’ve hoped that they would jog your memory and that you would see that you said and did things which not only were burned into my memory and affected me adversely for the greatest part of my life, but which would have adversely affected anyone, and for a very long time. Of course, I know that you don’t look at the internet, but maybe I hoped that someone who does would tell you about these “gifts”.

I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of anything I’ve done. That doesn’t mean that I’m not sorry for hurting people. I am and I’ve told most of those people in person.

Of course, you must already know that I’m sorry that I've hurt people. After all, during one of the last times that we visited, Mom made mention of the fact that I say “I’m sorry” too often. This just shows what kind of control you’ve had, and obvious still have, over people. The fact that a person with whom I shared your cutting words and even physical wrath and who pointed out that I say “I’m sorry” too often can actually make a perfect 180° turn in her opinion of me, writing to me about my selfishness for doing what I had to do to take care of myself, is overwhelming proof of your hold over people and the slick way in which you administer that hold.

You see, Dad, that’s the difference between you and me. You admitted you weren’t perfect and, for you, I suppose that in itself was a big step. You said you did the best you could do with what you knew, that I didn’t come with a manual. But you’ve never acknowledged the things that you did or said that had negative, long lasting affects on me or on my mother and, consequently, never felt the need to apologize. I’ve actually apologized to people, not the least among them, you and Mom. I have done this in spite of the fact that I, just like you, did the best I could do with what I knew. I wasn't prepared, by reading a manual, to deal with one single person with whom I’ve had to interact in my life, including you.

I see that you’ve either not read these essays or, if you have, they haven’t had the affect upon you that I hoped they would have. However, they’ve been extremely cathartic for me. The only thing left now is a final good-bye.

The door is closing rapidly on your life and is beginning to close, more rapidly than you will ever know, on mine.

I have one last question for you to ignore.

You know that I don’t believe in a supreme being. Consequently, what I believe will happen to me after I die is purely based upon the carbon based nature of the human body. However, I know how “religious” you and Mom are. So I don’t understand your bravado and lack of compassion.

Yes, I realize that you “got religion” after a long absence from it. I realize that you finally ended up going to confession after not having been for over ten years. I do wonder, though, what that must have been like. As you don’t think that you should feel regret over things you’ve done to people, it must have been a brief confession, even after ten years of not having gone.

You probably don’t remember but, before you went to confession after a ten year hiatus from The Catholic Church, I actually attempted to shame you and Mom into going to church.

Although you and Mom would have nothing to do with church, you made sure that I went to church and Sunday school every week. You made sure that I attended a Catholic high school even though I didn’t really want to at the time.

One Sunday, after going to church and Sunday school, I came home and told you and Mom that the priest looked at the congregation and noticed that I was alone. I told you that he approached me after mass and asked me where my parents were. I told you that I was embarrassed to tell him that you didn’t go to church. Of course, that was just a story I made up to get you to start going to church.

It backfired. I don’t remember how many doors and walls were battered, or if that was one of the times that I was going to “kill that woman on Mahan Street if she ever found out” or even if that was one of the few but significant times that you beat me up pretty good, but it certainly was one of the times that you reached deeply into your poison word arsenal.

You do remember the physical portions of your maniacal outbursts, don’t you? Don’t you remember how you’d be slapping me around pretty good until you backed me into a corner where I would cower? You would keep repeating, “What are you, some kind of baby?” or “What are you, a little girl?” or “You wanna hit me, don’t you? Go ahead, go ahead and hit me!” Of course I didn’t even try to hit you except for once later on. I was in my early to late teens (even a little into my twenties), 5’4” tall and weighed 160 pounds. You were in your middle to late thirties, 5’11” tall and weighed 185 pounds. You must have realized that I was no physical match for you and when I did try to fight back that one time, it was quite ill-advised.

Yours was not an “electrocution” type of torture. Yours was a “water torture”. The physical abuse was quite memorable, but wasn’t your abuse of choice, your most effective nor your most often utilized abuse.

You may not believe this, but after a while when a kid is told that, through his lying or the length of his hair or the fact that he snuck cigarettes and smoked them, he would kill his grandmother and told this from very early on, that kid may subconsciously begin to believe that his actions, no matter how small or insignificant, could have catastrophic affects upon those who know him. This is especially true if that kid is already loaded with a brain that's biologically unbalanced because of the lack of oxygen he was able to inhale shortly after his birth. I would think you remember about having to call a priest in to administer what The Catholic Church euphemistically calls “Extreme Unction” - last rights. How did you come up with the things you said? I guess I should talk. You taught me, through example, how to use words to hurt people and I did a wonderful job as well. As I've said, though, I've apologized whenever possible.

But, I digress. It took a few years, but church and you (and Mom) became very close acquaintances. So, that brings me to my question.

You must believe that you’re quickly approaching the time when you will meet your “maker”, right? I’m wondering what you’re going to tell “him” about some of the things you’ve done or said. I mean, if you really believe the BS that The Catholic Church teaches, you could be eternally punished for some of those things.

Or, possibly, do you think that “he” will validate the repulsion you feel toward entire groups of people? I absolutely know for a fact that, as recently as 1999, the words “nigger” and “spic” were words that were quite legitimate to use, in your book, to describe certain groups of society.

If you knew anything about the book, The Bible, you would know that it validates your views - or not, depending upon which part you read or to whom you speak - on capitol punishment and war. The death of others didn't bother you a whole lot, last I knew. I’m wondering how you’re beginning to view the end of your own life.

The Bible is a story book about which I, an atheist, know more than you. That really isn’t surprising, though, considering how insistent you were that I learn such things.

I’m sure that your “maker” shares your views on abortion. I’m sure that he saw your signature, and Mom’s, on the back page of “The Day” among the signatories of a petition condemning abortion.

I’m tempted to say that your going to church each week is driven more by how others see you than by any serious introspection. Your roles as “eucharistic ministers” merely reinforce my temptation. Add to that the one time that I know of during which you, in order to protect your own reputation, did support the very act against which you, and so many others, petitioned, and the temptation for me to feel that way solidifies.

Of course, I suppose that I should remember that, in The Catholic Church, all one has to do after committing a sin, especially a mortal sin, which that act is said to be, is to go to confession and the slate is wiped clean. So, I’m sure that you confessed that you knowingly and willingly participated in that mortal sin and felt totally absolved.

That begs the question, “What is it that you find so difficult about believing that others who commit murder could not have confessed their sins and could not have been, like you, totally absolved?” Does god have double standards? I guess if you believe that god has double standards about racism, you must believe that he has them about murder as well. Or is it that you think you’re better than god, choosing who’s worthy of forgiveness and who isn’t, in spite of the fact that god supposedly forgives them.

I just wonder what your take is on meeting “the big guy” now that it’s right around the corner, so to speak. Do you think you’re ready? Am I, indeed, going to hell and are you, indeed, going “up there”? I believe that all of us, whether devoted believers or committed atheists, are, in fact, agnostic. None of us knows what really happens after death, although some believe that they’ve “seen god” or “heard god”. I do respect those who believe differently than I. Do you respect those who believe differently than you? If so, it’s a truly remarkable change to make after seventy or more years; if so, good for you.

I really waited for quite some time before I wrote, sent and/or published this. I think that, since I’ve recently come to believe that I’m not quite as evil, not quite as stupid, not quite as insignificant, not quite as “foolish” or indolent as you led me to believe I am for all of forty-nine years inclusively, this is the right time for closure, at least for me.

I know that you all “mourn” me because you choose to believe I’m dead rather than to come to grips with some truths that could really set you and me free. Although you don’t know how close I am to that state, I can assure you that, as of the writing of this letter of closure, I am, indeed, not dead.

This final letter of closure is the last “father’s gift” about which I will ever write. It’s my gift to you for the many “gifts” of self-doubt, self assigned flagellation and general absence of self confidence which you so willingly imparted to me.

Rest in peace.

Good bye.
Michael

COPYRIGHT 2005 by Michael Bonanno

Reproduction of "A Father's Gift - Part 4" or any part therein,
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