This deeply moving article by Linda Kriger was published in 2008: http://www.forward.com/articles/14255/
I have read and reread this tale of estrangement, bitterness, regret, and the search for “repair” because I heard endless versions of it from friends, colleagues, clients, and audience members. I also lived it.
Below is the “comment” I posted to article’s website when I first read it in 2008. In the three years since I wote this, my opinion of my father has “expanded.” Much to my surprise, I have found a window into his suffering. This has given me new empathy for the gap between his dreams and where life finally took him.
Thank you for giving a voice to the bitter outcome many adult children experience with their aging parents before they pass away. We wish it were different but history and personalities bring the drama to its only logical conclusion. But was you pointed out, the death of the parent hardly ends the trauma of such a “poor outcome.” My father and I parted on similar terms, incommunicado and mutually sorry about our biological connection. As Joyce reminds us in The Dead, the departed usually prove more formidable after their gone. My father was not exception. I have danced for years with the guilt, anger, and loneliness of the events surrounding his death. The fact that our relationship was never right from the beginning is no comfort. Even his blatant failings, alcoholism, violence, and a perverse perfectionism are not enough for me to bid him a final and much needed adieu. Instead, my post-death relationship with has all the qualities of emotional quicksand. I scheme, struggle, and sink deeper into complexity. Like you, I find myself circling the issue of forgiveness but never getting it to stick. I think having a life with next to zero nurturing from him, it’s proving next to impossible to find the emotional release I need. This is why your story struck such a deep chord. Lastly, I don’t think it is either smarmy (wonderful word) or too late in the game to want relief. But I also think that these bitter ending are essentially Greek in nature, tragedies of accommodation not assimilation. They are familial dramas that leaves us with the task of orchestrating a “survivor’s compromise” that allows them to be who they need to be and finally gone.