My response has always been “never,” but recently I’m not so sure.
My mother has been dead for sixteen years. My father is eighty-four and still lives in the house where I grew up. But even though it’s just minutes from where I live, I rarely see him. My relationship with him was painful, difficult, damaging. Yet something has changed since he read our book.
Although I had been writing stories about my mother for years, it terrified me to publish them, mostly because of the thought that my father might read them. I never told him I’d written them, and when our book was published, I didn’t tell him about it. But somehow he found out. And without my knowing, he asked my brother to order a copy for him, and he read it.
One day he called and told me. He said that he admired my honesty, and that he was shocked at some of the things he had never known about me. He apologized for not being a better father. Then he asked if he could buy seven more copies to send to family and friends.
I brought the books to him, and we sat at his dining room table. He thumbed through his copy and read a few passages aloud. I listened to my words being spoken by my father. He read softly, slowly, and with gentleness. He was not angry. He was sorry.
Since that day we have been talking, hesitantly, and in circles, around the things we know but cannot yet say. This is a man who had hurt me, a man I feared. Now when I’m with him, I am nervous but not quite scared. Neither of us knows where we are headed. Maybe some day I will write about where we end up.