Forgiving Our Fathers

When a father and son are estranged, the pain can be deep. But sometimes it just takes just one person to take the first step.

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The following are two responses Russert received about fathers and forgiveness:

The Question
A dream, a child, a question—and suddenly a door opens.

My parents separated when I was thirteen, and by the time I was sixteen I had no contact with my father. This went on for about ten years, until I had a dream in which a faceless child looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, why don't you speak to Grandpa?"

The next day I broke my silence and called my father—the best thing I ever did. It has been about seven year since we resumed our relationship, and in those years I have had three children who adore him as he adores them. I can't imagine them not having the chance to know this remarkable man I call Daddy.

What has my father taught me? Forgiveness. He answered my call that day and accepted me with open arms, and he showed me that the time we had "lost" was far less important than the many times we would share from that day on. Forgiveness—what a beautiful gift! How blessed I am, not only to have found it within myself but to have received it from him as well.

-- Marla Kovatch,Flanders, NJ, speech pathologist, daughter of Michael S. Bailleau, produce manager 


The Shell Game
I'm tempted to ask them what happened, but I'm going to accept it just the way it is.

Every birthday or Father's Day, I would buy Dad a bag of white pistachio nuts. We'd devour them together and then play tricks on each other by hiding bags of shells where the uneaten nuts used to be. How delighted he was when I fell for it and reached in to find a handful of shell! And I was delighted when I could trick him back.


The day before my twenty-fifth birthday, my father disowned me. We had a major falling-out at Disney World, where Dad and his new wife were treating us to a week's vacation. Falling-out: a strange way to describe an argument but an apt way to describe the sensation of losing one's balance, of being catapulted out of childhood into a new and more frightening vision of the world and one's place in it. We were about to head off to a dinner show, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, when Dad declared that my husband and I were "no longer part of this family unit." He summarily kicked us out of the hotel at Fort Wilderness village. It's hard to find a car to rent at Disney World on Christmas Day. Later that week, we got home to a letter from Dad. "Please take your husband's last name," he wrote. "You don't deserve to carry mine." For months, my dreams were vivid and violent. I dreamed I would pay him back every penny he spent raising me. Maybe that would unmake him my father. Then I dreamed I would take a hammer to his kneecaps.

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Tim Russert
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