A Boy Forgives His Father
I recall a man hidden in the fog near a sea telling me this story one night. It was about a boy and his dad and the complexities of the relationship.
You see, the boy was high-spirited and excited about his life. His dad seemed old to him at the time but in reality, he was only in his forties. Worn down by the pain of losing his wife, he took comfort in a bottle of scotch. The evenings were soft and numb as he sipped his anguish away.
For the dad, this was life at its best.
For the boy, life meant embracing the future of possibilities.
Irritated by his son’s dreams, the father dropkicked him to the streets to teach him a good, hard lesson. Much like his dad had done to him when he came home from the big war.
The boy wandered the streets and sometimes found shelter. He cleansed himself in school restrooms, even in the bowels of the subway system. He carried a green bag full of his meaningful belongings. He hid in the corner of the train, burying his head in a grimy old jacket.
A friend nearby found him a job not far from his aunt’s home. There was joy on that Christmas Day when he announced his new-found luck. His aunt showered him with a fine meal of hot turkey and mashed potatoes. She had an extra room which could be his in a day – a new place to call home.
The boy was alive, full of hope and high spirits. Life was to be normal again, meaning life was to be extraordinary. No more train rides from one town to another. No more washing his hair in restroom sinks. No more worries where he would find his next meal.
Life was once again ripe with possibility.
He raced back to the subway for one last ride, clutching his green bag of belongings. Full of excitement, he didn’t mind spending one more night riding. It was a ride to end all rides, he thought for sure.
The next day, he made a phone call to set up a time for a ride but his aunt would not answer his desperate call.
She was silent that day as his Uncle told him the news. “Your dad threatened us if we would provide you any aid. I’m sorry, son. You’ll need to find another way.”
He fell to the floor, pleading silent cries of shame. What does a boy do with no home and bank account?
The boy had to give up the job the next day. He went back to the subway, more frightened and ashamed.
He was a bum, like his father told his aunt in that call. “He’ll learn a lesson, no doubt, be sure.”
It would be eight more days and nights the son would sleep on seats and floors. Beaten, broken, and humiliated, he called his aunt once more.
She wouldn’t answer yet his uncle listened. “I’ve got nowhere to go. I’ve got no more money. Please help me tonight. I’m so cold and alone.”
His aunt called back, on that public phone in the cold. “I can’t let my brother push me around anymore. If he were to reach my son and provide him with comfort, I’d be the first at his door to love him even more.”
His uncle picked him up at a nearby train station. As the boy walked into the door, his aunt handed him a cup of hot chocolate.
He lay on that bed, wide awake. He counted every blessing he had, letting the warmth fill his night. For many months they hid the boy away from his father, fearing reprisal was near at hand.
It would take several months before the son had recovered. He wondered how he would ever face the wrath of his father.
Years went by and the son made a good life. He became a loving husband and father of two beautiful girls. They fill his life to this wonderful day.
Yet the silence between him and his father was loud in shame.
The son wasn’t sure what was wrong or right. He didn’t even remember how severe this plight hurt.
Christmas Day is approaching, the anniversary of the son’s return to homelessness. He has wondered to this day why such vengeance was taken upon him.
What did he do wrong? Was it because he had dreams? Why was that hatred necessary? On Jesus’ birthday, of all days?
There’s never been an explanation. The son never sought one.
Perhaps it’s better to find some closure, even though many years have passed.
He will do so as Christmas Day approaches. The son has decided to move forward out of the past. He’ll ring his father’s doorbell, the same house from which he was banned. He’ll smile and give holiday wishes and extend his hand.
Merry Christmas, Dad. I want to wish you well. I want to thank you for what goodness you did bring me even if I did rebel.
Merry Christmas, Dad. It is Jesus’ birthday. I know he would want me to give you this as well.
Then the son will hug his father and whisper in his ear.
“I forgive you.”