I have a good memory. Almost twenty years after my family’s trip to Florida I can still summon the taste of the hotel’s blueberry-stuffed French toast and feel the gentle Gulf of Mexico swelling and ebbing underneath my pink blow-up raft. I can tell you the names of the six wives of Henry VIII, in order, and recall the exact wording of clever lines from favorite TV shows. I know exactly where and when my maid of honor told me about her crush on a guy she’d met the first day of high school. They’re married now. It’s a nice memory.
I remember how my dad and I were sitting side-by-side, watching TV, when he told me why he and my mom were having “problems,” as they’d euphemistically put it in an earlier conversation. ”Your mom had a hard time this year,” he said gently. ”I know she’s been crying a lot and you’re worried. But she’s just depressed and I will be there for her and we will get through this. Nothing will happen to our family.”
I can still feel the surge of relief I experienced at those words. I thought the world of my dad, trusted him as I trusted no one else (including, and perhaps especially, my sometimes-mercurial mother).
But that relief slips away when I remember what came next. A month later, my dad flew out to see me at college and told me he was leaving my mom for someone else. My mother’s depression hadn’t been a mysterious attack of mental illness. She was upset because she found out he’d been having an affair.
The memory of my dad’s first broken promise still makes my heart hurt, eight years later. Other broken promises followed it, other lies, but this is the memory that still burns, that brings a sour taste to my mouth, that fills me with a pitiful, impotent sort of anger. How could he lie like that? How could I have believed him, been so ready to place the blame on my mom?
The last time I told this story I admitted that remembering this conversation still makes me mad. Then in the next breath I claimed I’ve forgiven my father. He and I talk now, and we didn’t for a long time; I ask him for advice and share my successes and failures with him; I can even spend reasonably pleasant evenings with him and my now-stepmother. Could I do those things if I hadn’t forgiven him?
But … if I’ve forgiven him, why does the memory still feel this raw?
Does a good memory make me bad at forgiveness?
Apologies for using my blog as free therapy. I will now return you to your regularly scheduled wine reviews.