So you come to me for forgiveness again?

Brandon Bounds

“Son, can you forgive me?”

I’ve been asked that same question from my father three times in my life.

The first time my father asked me for forgiveness was when I was six or seven years old.

I didn’t know what it was for because I was so young at the time. I just blindly said yes.

The next time he asked for forgiveness was when I was a college student at Kent State.

It was my 19th birthday when he messaged me on Facebook. I haven’t talked to him in over 12 years. We met at an Applebee’s during spring break 2017. A few minutes after we’ve been seated at our booth, he posed the question: “Son, can you forgive me?”

I thought about it for a while, and here’s a little context as to why.

My father left my mother and me not too long after I was born. I haven’t heard from or seen him for six to seven years. My mother asked one day if I ever wanted to see my dad. I said yes. Shortly before I knew, I was sitting right across from him at a booth in McDonald’s.

We got to know each other for a little less than a year. We would hang out every weekend with one another. I vividly remember seeing “Racing Stripes” and going to the Pizza Hut buffet.

He introduced me to my stepmother and my four brothers I never knew I had.

I remember walking with him into a Walmart one afternoon and spotting a “Spongebob Squarepants” DVD I really wanted. I asked my father if he could get it for me, and he said yes.

I promise to get it for you next week, he said.

Two months passed, and I haven’t received a thing.

He made a promise to get me something, and he didn’t keep it. I confronted him about it soon after, which led me to not talk to him for about 12 years.

My mother would occasionally talk to him during those years saying how he was a deadbeat and that he lost three jobs in one week at some point. As she talked more about it throughout time, I began to see the hatred she had toward him.

I blocked out her thoughts on him after a while. I didn’t want her feelings toward my father to affect mine. I needed to have my own feelings. After all, I didn’t know him as well as she did.

“Do you ever wish to speak to your father again?” My mom would ask this occasionally.

I never gave her a straight answer. I was going through a weird phase. I wanted to resent my father, but something in my heart wouldn’t allow me to. I wanted to try to talk to him, but something in my heart was telling me not to.

These thoughts and feelings repeated for 12 years.

Flash forward, at Applebee’s, my father kept telling me about how he’s now a changed man. He’s now a pastor of a church 10 minutes from his house. He’s now a guardian for my 16-year-old cousin. He said God showed him the light and was doing everything in his power to better himself and make up for his past mistakes.

I wanted to believe him. I wanted to see how much my dad changed since his early years of misjudgment. I forgave him, yet I didn’t say those exact words.

We’ll take baby steps, I said, and we’ll go from there.

It’s been nearly two years now, and I started to see the kind of man my father was. I’ve watched him preach during a church service. A man in his late 30s or early 40s came to the church, asking my father to help guide him to a better path in life.

My father said no more and welcomed him into his church with open arms. I will never forget that moment.

I sat with him, my stepmother and my brothers while being honored at a dinner. People said nothing but good things about his generosity and caring for others.

I was proud of the man he was becoming. He actually changed. At least, so I thought.

I get a text one morning from my little brother, and these were his exact words:

“What’s up y’all? Dad fucked up, and if he comes to you for pity, don’t give him any. He cheated on Mom.”

Needless to say, my brother was livid. I was as well, but not for the reason you might think.

I’m used to his cheating ways. He cheated on my mother while I was just a baby. He even cheated on my stepmother on a couple of occasions before this one, my little brother said.

I’m mad about it all — every last bit. However, I find it more disappointing because he reverted back to his old ways even after I forgave him.

He put on this fake facade that he was now a man of God and wanted to do right by his family and those around him.

I’m waiting for the moment my father will come to me for my pity and forgiveness, and the hardest part won’t be forgiving him, but even considering giving him the time of day.

Here’s how I see it.

He cheated on his wife, causing her to feel embarrassed, vulnerable and betrayed. His sons are now disgusted by his actions and disappointed that he would do such a thing. For all that, he lost the trust of his family and those closest to him, and for what? A cheap thrill or mindless decision where he didn’t once think of those who did care for him.

I’m mad at myself for not seeing this coming. He told me a lie as soon as we started talking again. I should’ve blocked him on social media and made sure he could never contact me again. I didn’t, though. I desperately wanted to have some sort of connection with my father again, and I didn’t want something like that getting in the way.

My brothers came to me, rightly frustrated and on the verge of crying. I felt angry, yet powerless, to the fact that I couldn’t soothe the wrong that was done. His actions now leave me with more questions than answers. Why did he decide to cheat on my stepmother? Why did he cheat on my mother when I was young? Why did he want to hurt those around him? Why didn’t we come first? What could I have done? What can I still do?

Here are my final thoughts: I know he’s going to ask me for the third time, “Son, can you forgive me?”

This will be my answer: Can water and oil mix? No matter how many times you shake it up for it to mix together, the two will always separate.

Brandon Bounds is an enterprise reporter. Contact him at [email protected].