“What do you have there?” Dad eyed my Tim Horton’s cup suspiciously.
“Iced Cappuccino,” I said.
“What kind of drink is that?” he asked.
“It’s a slushy frozen coffee,” I said, knowing that ‘frozen’ and ‘coffee’ would not work well in a sentence, for Dad.
Dad furrowed his brows. “Cold coffee?” He was clearly unimpressed. “That doesn’t sound like it would taste very good!”
I laughed. “It does if you like it.” I was talking to a man who only drank piping hot instant coffee. The kettle had to be boiling when the coffee was poured, and if he didn’t have to pour it into a saucer to sip it, it wasn’t hot enough.
I offered to bring him one to try on my next visit, but he declined. “I don’t think I would like cold coffee.” When I offered a regular coffee, he said the nurses served coffee with his breakfast each morning, and that was enough.
It was chitchat about family and health for a while Life stuff. And then we got onto deeper talks… God… faith… religion… And finally we talked about our home. About his rage. About what life had been back then, in those broken years at home, when I was still a child.
Dad’s eyes filled with tears. “Trudy, will you forgive me for all the ways I sinned against you?” he asked.
I looked at him, now an old man… empty, broken and weak, and my heart felt sad for him. Sad for the years he had lost. Yes, I carried scars but my life was full. His life was empty. Many of his relationships with his children were strained. Distant.
But I saw something deeper. His eyes had softened. His spirit mellowed. He was no longer invincible. No longer defensive. Whatever wrongs he had committed, he could only reach for grace and forgiveness.
“Dad, I forgave you a long time ago. Yes, I forgive you.”
He wept. I reached over. Touched his hand. He had been so strong. His giant hands had felt like steel, back then. Frightening hands that triggered fear if ever he clenched his fist, or raised his hand to strike.
I had stood face to face, practically nose to nose with him at eighteen, in defence of my little brothers. He had drawn a fist then, preparing to punch me. I had leaned in a little closer then, and calmly defended them, keeping eye contact.
He had lowered his fist then, and mumbled something before walking out the door. At which point my body started to tremble, only then realizing what I had done.
Now, sitting beside him in the hospital, I knew the time was short. How short, I wasn’t certain. But it was short. His hands looked weak, and worn. Even in my pregnant state I would have far more strength than he. How times had changed.
There was deep emotion. Grief. Sorrow. Loss. But accompanying those emotions was something I had not seen in years gone by.
“I am so thankful God has had mercy on me in my old age,” Dad said. He told me how he had finally learned that it is through grace that we are saved. That it is a gift he could never earn. One he did not deserve. His pride and strength were shattered. He had only grace to fall back on. And in that failing health, in his weakness, he had the humility to say, “I was wrong. I sinned.”
Although I chose to forgive my father when first I started to work through abuse, it was a wonderful and freeing thing, to have him ask for forgiveness. And while my freedom didn’t depend on it, that confession was a gift that I treasure.
© Trudy Metzger
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