Tom was 60 years old when he told me about his 85 year old father who was losing his memory. Tom described how for decades he felt intense anger toward his father. But now, with his father aging so with dementia, Tom sat slumped in my office chair, crying.
Sure, his father had made mistakes when Tom was a boy. He yelled at him to go to bed when it turned out that his arm was fractured. He never took the time to go to any of Tom’s sporting events. He didn’t let Tom transfer to the high school of his choice. He hit Tom when he disrespected his mother.
As the years went by, his father did say he was sorry, many times. But Tom’s resentment was too intense and he could not bring himself to forgive. In fact, as time moved on, Tom’s anger seemed to grow even stronger and he openly told his father many times that he couldn’t wait for him to die…..
As a psychiatrist, this is a scene I have sadly witnessed all too often: an adult son who harbors years of anger and resentment. An adult son who is too proud to forgive. An adult son who never takes the time to look at himself.
Certainly, I cannot say that I have ever met a perfect Mom or Dad. But short of significant abuse, forgiveness is one of the greatest things that we can do. With forgiveness, we can break the seeming irreversibility of the past.
As the Beatles sang, “Life is very short…”