“Life is too short for a family feud. Love is the oil that eases friction,
the cement that binds us together, and the music that brings harmony.”– Author Unknown
It was July of 1985 when I answered the phone.
“Hello, Son,” said the voice. “How are you doing?”
My father always called me “Boy,” so hearing him use the term “son” caught me off guard.
“I heard you and the family will be up this way in a few weeks. Mind giving me a hand with the engine in the old farm truck? I thought we could swing by Ed’s Auto Salvage in Westlock and grab a used one. I already checked, and he’s got one. What do you say?”
Had the old man changed tactics, making a request rather than his typical demands? I had reserved two weeks for a family getaway. With my wife’s family living just three miles from mine, it seemed natural to spend a day or two with both families before embarking on our mountain retreat. Even though fixing that old farm truck wasn’t my idea of relaxation, I, as usual, agreed, much to my wife’s dismay. When I said the task would only take a day or two, she raised a skeptical eyebrow, reminding me of our long-planned and promised vacation with the kids.
When we got up to the farm, Father helped me unload my large toolbox from the trunk of the car. He proposed a Westlock trip the next day and even offered to cover lunch.
The following day, after collecting the used engine, Father and I had lunch at the local inn. He was in a talkative mood, making every effort to draw me into a conversation. He shared his appreciation for my help with the truck, acknowledging that I was making a sacrifice during my vacation. My father and I had long shared a strained relationship, often marked by unspoken tensions and numerous misunderstandings. So, when he unexpectedly reached out, attempting to bridge the longstanding gap between us, I was left puzzled and uneasy, questioning the sudden, unfamiliar shift in our dynamic.
“You sure got yourself a nice family there, Son,” he remarked, sipping his coffee. “Those kids are something special.” He concluded by expressing how nice it was to host us for a visit.
Over the ensuing days, we joined forces to remove and replace the old engine. The moment it roared to life, my father’s eyes lit up. He smiled and gave me a hearty slap on the shoulder. It was then suggested that we retire to the farmhouse deck for a cold brew or two.
As we drove away from the farm a few days later, my wife observed, “Your dad is a wonderful man. The kids adore him.” She paused, then added softly, “He cares deeply about you.”
“Maybe,” I replied, merging onto the pavement. “Got an odd way of showing it.”
My wife had long known about the tumultuous history between my father and me. The father I remembered from my childhood stood in stark contrast to the man she had come to know. I grew up fearing him, doubting his affection for me. His recent attempts to bridge our gap, though genuine, felt belated. While I valued his efforts for the sake of her and our children, it felt too late for the bond between him and me.
“He knows he failed you,” she said. “He’s making amends the only way he knows how.”
Life is an intricate dance of relationships, with one of the most profound and nuanced being between parents and their children. There are moments of sheer joy and times of intense challenge. And sometimes, misunderstandings and conflicts can create a chasm between these two generations. Reconciliation is the bridge that offers a way back to each other.
It’s crucial to recognize that our past, present, and future connections with our parents deeply influence our self-esteem. As children, we often see the world through our parents’ eyes. Their words, actions, and even silences can either uplift us or cast shadows of doubt. Similarly, parents find their worth, in part, through their children’s successes and failures, making this bond incredibly influential on both sides.
Reconciliation isn’t merely about saying, “I’m sorry.” It’s about understanding and acceptance. It’s about recognizing that both parents and children are human, prone to mistakes, and always learning. To reconcile is to acknowledge the hurt, understand its source, and decide to move forward together.
Building or rebuilding self-esteem is an essential aspect of this journey. Parents must help their children recognize their worth, not just by words but through actions. It’s about creating an environment where a child feels unconditionally seen, heard, and loved. Similarly, as they grow older, children can reflect on their parents’ sacrifices, struggles, and dreams, which can foster understanding and empathy.
The path to reconciliation might require professional help, open conversations, or just time apart to reflect and heal. But the heart of this journey is always about love and understanding. Every step toward mending the relationship adds a layer of strength and resilience.
Just four months after we replaced that engine, my father died. At his funeral, a family friend asked if my father and I had found common ground.
“Your father admitted to me,” he said, “He didn’t do right by you.”
“Well,” I responded. “He was a good father-in-law and grandpa.”
I reflected on his wish to reconcile. He clearly loved my wife and valued his role as a grandfather. The bond between him and his biological son had utterly deteriorated. Maybe he wanted to “do right” by me. Regardless of the reason, could I find it within myself to forgive him?
I recall musing, “I’ll do my best, Old Man, but I can’t make any promises.”
Reconciliation between parents and children transcends mere gestures. It embodies a lifelong dedication to understanding, love, and mutual respect. Yet, it’s crucial to acknowledge that sometimes, due to deep-rooted issues or long-held resentments, reconciliation remains elusive. As we strive to build this bridge, we not only heal the relationship but also fortify our self-worth, reaffirming our invaluable significance and unique role in the world.