As I sit facing the backwoods, I enjoy nature – a welcome respite from haunting thoughts about the dark threads of my life. Musing now; I never gave it much thought when younger. Here, in the winter of my years, it seems important. Threads we all have. Some are light and colorful, but it’s the dark ones that hold my attention in this moment.
Thinking back, dark threads were there from my earliest recollections. I was born on one, and have sadly chosen, it would seem, to travel along those I intuitively felt I added along my decades’ long journey. Were they always there, chosen by me? Or did I somehow add them on my own? I ponder about choices, control, inevitability, and so much more.
Since all threads make up the tapestry of our life - the light ones, the colorful, the shiny important ones - what place do the dark ones have? Until we pass to the next level, we are not permitted to view the front of this magnificent tapestry of existence; only the back, while living. From the current perspective, it does seem to be haphazard and chaotic. And yet, there is a certainty about the final picture being complete and as it must be.
Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning, and go from there. I was blessed with parents who knew not how to be parents. Good people, but not wise. As they moved through their own difficult journeys, I was overprotected and ignored throughout my childhood; isolated and an only child. I grew to adulthood with recollections of personal physical pain, and emotional needs unmet. This resulted in spotty recollections and gaps of memory. Childhood amnesia has a way of helping us deal with the untenable situations that a youngster could not change, interpret, or understand.
And the anger grew - the first of the dark threads destined to have many others. During my pre-teen years, the lack of a solid home life meant learning from what acquaintances I had -interacting without guidance or reason; and the anger grew.
Once in my teens, interactions with others was unguided and misdirected, leaving to chance interactions with neighborhood gangs and unsavory characters - all searching without finding; and the anger grew.
It was around this time that my family doctor took a personal interest in me and, in effect, became a surrogate parent. At great risk to himself, he undertook to drain the boiling rage that festered within. Carefully and slowly my mentoring began. The mysteries of friendship, companionship, and emotional control began to be revealed. This mentoring continued for the next nine years, allowing me to complete high school, avoid becoming involved in a gang, and to get into college.
The relationship between my parents and me improved a little, although their relationship with each other remain strained and fixed at the level they were able to tolerate. My father was absent most of the time, developing a separate life while keeping in distant contact with my mother and me. Still legally married, he nonetheless managed to build at least one life for himself outside of the one into which I was born. Still living at home with my mother and her brother, I continued in school, wrestled with anger demons, and maintained the tendency to make hasty and ill-conceived decisions.
Ongoing guidance from my mentor sustained me through graduate school and up until I met the love of my life. My soulmate was an accomplished woman in her own right, the toast of famous bandleaders, and had a fancy career in the fashion world. Intellectually way of ahead of where I was, economically self-sufficient, and socially and emotionally far beyond my level – what could she have possibly seen in me? Nothing more than potential, I assure you.
To be worthy of this prize, I needed to get myself in gear. That meant growing up fast. My goal was to become economically able to support a wife, to master my poor habits of reacting without thinking, and to separate from the cocoon of my existence; in short, to really step up. If I failed, I would have no chance with her, for I could offer no future.
In the time of a whirlwind courtship with the constant help of my mentor, I was able to do what I had to do. In the years that followed, my wife and I led a hippie, bohemian, and intellectual life that brought us joy.
We lost our parents, but had each other. And it was good. In recounting now, it becomes clear to me that I had lost my parents, honoring them as much as I was able to, but I really never came to grips with my secret: I had never forgiven them. Of course, now, I can understand they were victims as well – perhaps even more so than I. As much as they were able, they did what they needed to do to get through each day, and to survive.
My mother-a poetess unfulfilled, beset by chemical imbalances with which she struggled unsuccessfully throughout her life, was misunderstood and alone. She was a beautiful person underneath. Sadly, a person I never came to know.
My father-a brilliant, self-made man, always struggled with feeling less than he was. Brought up without a male figure to guide him, surrounded by sisters, his attitude and reactions to women colored his life going forward. Small wonder that he didn’t know how to be a father. He was a good person underneath; sadly, one I also missed out in truly knowing.
Now, after all these years, I can recognize that I had never forgiven them; that I still held on to the internal hurt/anger/disappointment of my upbringing. These are all misplaced feelings. They do not deserve them. We were all victims and all deserve understanding and forgiveness. Far too late I do finally forgive them. Far too late I ask that they forgive me.
This dark thread is surrounded by beauty. I feel the vibration of healing – just beyond this thread, on this side of the tapestry. A healing experience of harmony and grace. I wonder: dare I venture off this dark thread to embark upon that magnificent path? Now, in my mid-eighties, as I commune with nature, and the chaotic perfection of a forest in the back woods untouched by human hands – perhaps the answer lies in a deeper question: is it also far too late to finally forgive myself?