We all come from somewhere. Who we are and what we have to offer is the result of a complex set of positive and negative influences on our characters as we've grown. Today is a good day to come to terms with a contribution that someone has made to your life. Forgiveness and grace over denial and ignorance. Who do you owe your start to? That person might like to know they had a hand in your success and happiness, even if it did not look like it to you at the time.
My father never met his father. He did not get to run downstairs early any Christmas morning to discover the childhood magic and mystery of Santa’s bounty. Instead, he was thrust into a broken life by cheating parents who did not understand how they could transcend the weighty shame of producing a child out of wedlock in early twentieth century English society. He grew up in a foster home, publicly pissing on his lone bag of holiday jelly beans just so the bigger kids wouldn’t steal them.
My dad as a result made up for his hardscrabble youth by trying to give his two sons what he never got from his dad (who eventually married his mistress and attempted to make good on his duties as a father posthumously). Christmas every year was my father’s attempt to make good on his duties, as he staged his elaborate morning pageants.
He put his back into the show. He would collect elk shit in the summer and freeze it until winter. My younger brother and I would wake from fitful sleeps and storm the living room. There we’d find burned out logs kicked onto the carpet, ashes scattered among the "reindeer" droppings. Santa, apparently in a hurry, had knocked the glass of milk all over the dining room table in a sea of cookie crumbs and orange peels. And then there was the bounty of bows and ribbons. We never second-guessed the existence of the Santa. The evidence was so visceral and so victorious. I got to be the carefree child he did not.
We assume that every Christmas now could be his last. Dementia has stripped his ever slipping mind of any deeper purpose and his ailing body of its will. His once fearsome countenance has faded. Our father was the cause of our parent's divorce when we were still quite young and he took the hit. Sons judge their fathers for their inevitable and sometimes substantial flaws and failings. But his dad did his best just as he did his.
He learned to sell himself and make his own way. Anything he got, he got on his own. No one staked him. Growing up, and apart from one or two part-time jobs, I never even considered working for someone else. For the past thirty-five years, I've also made my own way, digging for opportunities, selling myself and serving people. Until very recently I never thought about where the entrepreneurial spirit came from. I always thought that no one staked me. But I was blind. In my youthful contempt for his deficiencies I missed the opportunity to take better advantage of what he had to give. That's my past loss. But it's also my future gain.
Compassion is for the people we judge most harshly.