It’s funny to me, but not haha funny, how people automatically give others a free pass on past pains they have yet to apologize, or take responsibility for simply because they’ve learned the person is facing an illness that will most likely bring their life to its conclusion. Why is that?

I can’t be so generous when I think those people should actually want to make amends and leave with a clear conscience knowing they have done what is needed to remove the barb from the hearts they have injured. Are they so shy of pride and principle that their victims are expected to not just carry the pain, but shoulder the burden of not having the courage to ask for some kind of atonement? My inclination is they need to be told, and they need to prove their motives while they still can.

My children’s father has a form of lymphoma and is likely in his final years, or days. He seems to be showing slightly more interest in trying to be remembered by his grandchildren, though still not quite there with his own. And, by slightly, I mean he will see them on their birthdays and maybe one or two more times during the year. He wasn’t real fast to see either one after they were born, and even 3 and 6 years later they aren’t real comfortable around him. Although our daughter would graciously bring her children to visit with him, he rarely asks unless there’s something else going on.

He was a horrible dad from the very beginning. Mean from the deepest part of his heart. There was no name too cruel to call his kids, making them cry was sport, and selfish knew no boundaries. When he felt the urge to berate them, there were no boundaries and all I could do was wait for it to end or deal with the escalated fury of having undermined his authority in front of the kids if I had intervened to stop his torture.

Saturday mornings he would go out to buy a newspaper and come home with a Snickers bar treat for our daughter. He’d give it to her whole, wait for her to open the wrapper and then ask if he could have a bite. In her generous nature, she’d hand him the candy bar, he’d take 3/4 of it in one bite and then laugh when she started to cry. As soon as he regained the ability to talk from a mouthful of candy he’d berate her with, “what’s the matter, are you too selfish to share with your dad?”

The day I saw him chase our 3 year old son, grab him by the hair and kick the feet out from under him I knew it was time to call it quits and take the children to safer surroundings. Whether or not he would actually ever really hurt either of them physically was less significant than the incredible emotional damage he was doing to them. Having been emotionally taunted by my mother all my life gave me the empathy needed to act against this behavior. As the years went on, though, it became clear that emotional injuries can be inflicted from anywhere in the world, and all the protecting I tried to do was for naught. Genetics existed and one of the two children would grow up to be just like her dad — favor him as the parent of choice, actually. Then, there was money in her dad’s portfolio and she had acquired a husband much like him.

He spent the biggest part of his life living abroad and as far away from them as possible. We never had a phone number, an address, or emergency contact information for him, which limited the contact the kids could originate. Of course, nothing was ever his fault and he would go to great lengths to try and convince the kids that they were the ones responsible for maintaining a relationship with him – even at 5 and 9 years old. If he came back to the area on leave or to visit, he would wait until a day or two before he was leaving again to call them. A quick lunch out, phone call within 48 hours that he was at the airport, and 2 days later a letter would arrive declaring his sadness that they hadn’t had any real time together, but that he would certainly make it up to them one day.

He’s dying now, and he’ has shown only the slightest interest in making it up to them. My son compared him to “Lee Atwater” and his death bed regrets. Even though his effort to connect to his kids is a bit more frequent, it isn’t much. My daughter, however, is married to a man who will take money any way he can get it, and the thought of the guy dying has visions of inheritance dancing in his head, it seems. That’s a blog of its own.