This one’s for you, Dad.

I will never forget early morning coffee runs with my father. When I was in middle school, we would stop by the “Flying J” gas station on my way to school. Every morning I’d get a french vanilla coffee out of their cheap cappuccino machine.  I often forget those coffee runs. But I was so proud of that gas station convenience store coffee, because I was sharing it with my dad.

The other day, I bought one of those coffees.

I hold so much resentment against my upbringing and his emotional abuse, that I often forget the redeeming qualities of his character. It’s easy to blame, much more difficult to forgive. That coffee in hand, my thoughts flashed back to a family Christmas when we discussed what would go in our parents’ will. My parents, siblings and I were all gathered around the kitchen table. The reality of death was so tangible in that moment, all of us were on edge. My dad was sitting in the middle of all of us. He felt compelled to tell us something, he said. He said that he knew he hadn’t been a good dad. He said, in the best way he could, that he wished he could have given all of us a better childhood. A better life.

And then, quietly, with tears in his eyes, he said, “I’m sorry.”

When we realize our mortality, the reality of our existence becomes more honest. We see who we are, objectively. That was the first day I began forgiving him. Forgiveness is a long term project – a journey.

With that cheap cappuccino machine coffee, I smiled as I walked down the street. The smell of it reminds me of home, of my childhood – of my dad. And each coffee brings me one step closer to forgiveness.

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