ReconciliationBy Bobby Neal Winters
The more I know, the less I understand
And all the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my heart is so shattered
But I think it's about forgiveness
--Don Henley, Mike Campbell, and J.D. Souther
My father loved women. And he was the sort of man who believed that there wasn’t a woman so beautiful that she couldn’t be made more beautiful with a two-year-old child tagging along behind her. As a truck driver, he viewed the world through his windshield and often created opinions of people from what he saw. I remember of him speaking of a young woman who lived on the 19-mile stretch of road between Ada and Asher (Oklahoma). He’d only knew her from from these glimpses along the road, but he admired her because she was so frequently outside and was working every time he saw her.
That is something I do too. I create my own people by my glimpses of what I see. There might be very little to go on. I might only see them in public occasions when they are putting out what they want to be seen. And it has been my habit to create an idealized version of them. This means I admire a lot of people--and that makes me happy--but it also means that I am frequently disappointed. One nasty side-effect of this is I am becoming more cynical as I grow older.
Those who watch this space may recall that a while back wrote that my father had committed suicide because of having cancer and that, after all these years, I was finding it difficult to really forgive him for it. It was one of those things that in my youth I had forgiven, but as I grew closer to the age he’d been when I’d known him, I found forgiveness to be more difficult.
I got letters about that which doesn’t happen often. They were very thoughtful, and though I have answered them all personally, I want to acknowledge them here. Thank you.
The Lord’s Prayer--the Our Father--asks that we be forgiven as we forgive others, so I’d better forgive. But it is a process.
When the Presbyterians say the Lord’s Prayer, they say forgive us our debts. We owe something. It makes it almost a financial transaction. That brings up another financial term: reconciliation. When you look up reconciliation in the dictionary, it brings of the image of two parties, each bringing out accounts of their mutual transactions to see whether they line up.
When I’ve reconciled my bank account--my records versus the bank’s--there have been times when the two accounts didn’t line up exactly. Mathematics dictates that I am wrong or the bank is wrong or that both of us are wrong. There is a certain amount of good faith searching that must take place on the part of each of us. How much depends upon the size of the difference. After that good faith effort, there comes a time when the difference must be acknowledge and each party must proceed.
Most of the time this ends with me admitting that I must have made a mistake. But the search is not wasted because sometimes banks do make mistakes and because I gain greater insight to the sorts of mistakes I make. If I follow the procedures that Mr. Scott taught me in high school bookkeeping, then there is a trail of what I’ve done that I can look back on.
This is what I’ve been doing in reconciling with my father. There comes a point where the accounts don’t match up and if the relationship is to continue somebody has to let the difference go.
And Dad’s been gone for nearly three decades, but there is still a relationship. He’s not around to state his case, so I’ve just got to let the difference go.
But in the process, I’ve recalled all the good about him. I’ve discovered the things about him--good and bad--that live on in me. And I’ve let go of my anger.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. )