My father committed suicide because of having cancer. In my youth I had forgiven him, but as I grew closer to the age he’d been when I’d known him, I found forgiveness to be more difficult. When the Presbyterians say the Lord’s Prayer, they say “forgive us our debts.” We owe something. That brings up another financial term: reconciliation. It brings up the image of two parties, each bringing out the accounts of their mutual transactions to see whether they line up.
When I’ve reconciled my bank account — my records versus the bank’s — sometimes the two accounts don’t line up exactly. Mathematics dictates that I am wrong or the bank is wrong or both of us are wrong. We must each do a certain amount of good faith searching. How much depends upon the size of the difference. After that good faith effort, the difference must be acknowledged and each party must proceed.
Most of the time this ends with me admitting that I must have made a mistake. But the search is not wasted, because sometimes banks do make mistakes and because I gain greater insight to the sorts of mistakes I make. If I followed the procedures Mr. Scott taught me in high school bookkeeping, I can look back on a trail of what I’ve done.
This is what I’ve been doing in reconciling with my father. There comes a point where the accounts don’t match up and if the relationship is to continue somebody has to let the difference go.
Dad’s been gone for nearly three decades, but there is still a relationship. He’s not around to state his case, so I’ve just got to let the difference go. In the process, I’ve recalled all the good about him. I’ve discovered the things about him — good and bad — that live on in me. I’ve let go of my anger.
Bobby Winters is assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. He blogs at Redneck Math and Okie in Exile. “The Accounts Will Never Match Up” is adapted from his “Reconciliation,” published on Okie in Exile. He tells the story of his father’s suicide in While We Were Walking 100 Miles Away.