A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
FORGIVENESS FEELS FINE
Dad was fine. At least, that's what he said when I asked him how he was feeling. Of course, that's what he ALWAYS says when I ask how he's feeling. But this time he said it with a big black- and-blue smile.
The fact is, he wasn't doing very well that day. And neither, come to think of it, was I.
In the middle of the previous night, one of the residents at the Alzheimer's care center where Dad lives got up to use the rest room. Evidently, he got a little confused in making his way back to his bed, because he ended up trying to climb into Dad's bed-with Dad still in it. As you might expect, my father was startled to have a stranger climbing into his bed, and he offered some feeble resistance. The other man was doubtless similarly surprised to find someone sleeping in what he thought was his bed, and he responded to Dad's resistance in a frightened, angry manner. Being younger, stronger and more alert than Dad, the confrontation was a mismatch.
Simply stated, he beat the heck out of my dad.
And Dad looked it. His face was a mass of bruises. His eyes were swollen shut. His lips were split, with traces of dried blood still clinging to them. Even his arms were bruised where it appeared he held them up in an attempt to block the blows.
I handled the news of the incident pretty well. After all, these things happen among Alzheimer's patients. In fact, Dad had been guilty of an occasional impropriety as well. And it's not as though there was anything malicious about the other man's intent. He was simply dealing with a situation as best he could given the limitations imposed upon him by this horrific disease. I was being calm. Mature. Philosophical. And extraordinarily compassionate.
Then I saw Dad-battered, bruised and smiling. Good-bye, maturity. Hello, WWF.
"Where is the little thug?" I coldly asked my sister, whom I met at the care center.
"Joe, I don't think that's a good idea," she said.
"Why? I'll bet I'm bigger, stronger and faster than he is. I'm pretty sure I can take him."
"Joe, the man is in his eighties!"
"OK, maybe not stronger and faster," I reasoned. "But I'm still probably bigger than him."
Sisters can be such spoil sports-especially when they're right. I was just so angry after actually seeing the damage that had been inflicted upon my father. But Dad was, by his own estimation, "fine." His injuries were ugly, but they weren't serious. He was medicated, so he wasn't in pain. He was going to get through this, more or less intact. The only question was: would I?
"It seems to me that we have a choice," my sister said. "We can get angry and lash out, or else we can forgive and forget and move on. What do you think Dad would want us to do?"
She wasn't playing fair. Of course Dad would want us to put the incident behind us. That's the way he lived his life. If he didn't invent the "this too shall pass" philosophy, he certainly perfected it. And so in deference to him, and out of respect for what he taught us, we chose to move on. We took care of his injuries, and worked to find forgiveness within us for the man who had inflicted them.
And you know what? Finding forgiveness wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Actually, it was pretty easy, because it turns out that forgiveness feels better than anger or retribution or even revenge. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that forgiveness feels downright . . . you know . . . "fine."
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com