Brutal Peace

Posted: May 13, 2014 in Life, living, truth-telling
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The hospital room had low summer lighting.  I think that’s what they call it, anyway.  Summer lighting.  It meant that the lighting wasn’t harsh or hard on the eyes.  “Muted yellow lighting” would have been more descriptive.

Anyway, it was calm.

Much like the patient in the bed.  He was calm, too.  Peaceful. Apologetic.

In the last few months, he had made an effort to talk with everyone.  His kids, his brothers, me.

In each case, he had offered up an offer of peace.  His way of saying he was sorry.  Sorry for the way he had treated us.  Sorry for the angst and anger he had vented on us.  Sorry for the hurt.  Sorry for the pain and the worry and the overwhelming fear he had provoked.

He told each of us that he loved us.  It seemed important to him for some reason.

I vaguely recall the time he told me that too.  I accepted what he said, politely.  That’s what you do, when someone says they love you.  Especially when that someone has been a vision of horror for such a large portion of your life.  You smile and you say “me too”.

Whether you mean it or not is another thing entirely.

I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

I damned well did not love him.

When he breathed his last breath under that summer lighting in that hospital bed, I breathed a sigh of relief.  And I felt marginally guilty for doing so.


I went home that night.  My daughter was in the kitchen, doing something.  I don’t recall exactly what.  Probably doing dishes.

Leaving the lights off, I sat down at the piano, and started to play.  I didn’t have a song in mind, so I created one.  Arpeggios came to mind, and I followed through.  Minor keys, major keys.  A rhythm.  It coalesced into…..something.

It was at once stark, painful and hopeful. It was peaceful, and sad.  I decided to make it a song about my dad.  I called it “Hope of Glory”.

When the time came and we had the Catholic mass for him, I sat at the front of the church and I played that song.

Interspersed with the melody were the vibrations of memory.

My father, drunk and angry.  Wrapping a chain around his fist.  My mother yelling at him.  He had been pulled over by a cop earlier that week and by God he was going to go hunt for the cop and repay him.  My mother threatening to call the police the moment he left the house.

My fingers caressed the keys, plinking away at the foundation of the song.

My dad, drunk once again, looking for a fight.  Hearing me say something at the top of the cellar stairs.  I don’t recall what it was, but I had made the mistake of disagreeing with him.  “ARE YOU CALLING ME A LIAR?”

“But..” I started to say “that’s not what——”   Then I heard him running to the bottom of the stairs.  I turned, opened the door and bolted outside.

His 350 pound lumbering gait was no match for my lithe 140 pound sprint.  I could at least outrun him.   He roared in frustration at the door.  “DON’T COME BACK”

My fingers picked up the melody, to counterbalance the bass line.  The rhythm began.

My dad, raising his voice.  The first sign of a rage that would be repeated each weekend, and eventually every other weekday for years.

A series of thumps and scrambling and grunts.  My mom, crying out.  My grandmother yelling at him to stop.

My fingers played eloquently on the keys, calmly following through on the variation.   The silence of the church.

My dad, now sober, unable to relate to me.  We’re sitting in the living room, a show on TV.  He says something.  I say something in response, politely.  Awkward silence.

The song I play now building in volume and depth.  Searching…searching….

My father, laughing now with his brothers at a picnic.  Relating to them, and to a few of my siblings.  But not to me.  My mother, close-lipped and patient.  Me, just wanting to get away.

The song now slows, and I bring it to an end.  Finally.


On the night I first play the song, my daughter comes to my side.  Puts her hand around my shoulder.   “What’s that, dad?  It’s beautiful.”

“It’s just a song I made up, sweetheart.  It’s for my dad.”  She squeezes my shoulder.  My head is bowed, and my tears drop quietly.


He’s been dead for at least a decade now.  A little while ago I had a dream.  It was about him.  We were talking and laughing and I think we played some baseball or something.  I regret not writing it down when I woke up.

The only thing I know is: it was good.  And, apparently after making a concerted effort time and again over the years to forgive him for his drunken violent rages, I’ve finally made peace with him.

Hope of glory.

  1. Karen Milliorn says:

    Sad to say, I really get it. Mine has been gone 46 years. TODAY.. (THAT’S just weird!)


  2. Abe's Blog says:

    Wonderful, beautiful, sad, and lovely.


  3. Elle Blythe says:

    that touched my heart.


  4. As usual and incredible blog post. Tears ran down my face for the little boy who was treated so badly. They also ran down my face for the brutal disease of alcoholism that affects so many. I’m so sorry you didn’t connect when he got sober but I am very happy that you finally found the peace. I would love to hear the music so is there a chance it might be posted somewhere?


  5. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. If I could play the piano I’d play something brilliant, glee-ful and loud and make it applause-like! Great post. Thank you!


  6. wheniwasaboy says:

    It’s beautiful, Wolf. Making peace with dad is always hard, much harder in your case.

    It touches my soul.

    Thank you.


    • wolfshades says:

      Thank you. It really is. I never expected it to take this long, based upon the advice handed to me over the years. I thought that once you make up your mind to forgive, it happens.

      It didn’t happen. Not for a very long time. Every time I thought about him (even though I tried to forgive him) the anger came bubbling up. What a relief now to find it gone.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your piece provoked an emotion in me that was near foreign. I had a wonderful Dad and I am so, so sorry you didn’t. Your story does, however, parallel my husband’s experience. His childhood left him somewhat broken, but time has healed a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will ever get to the point of peace you have come to and his Dad has been gone so much longer – guessing, but maybe even 25 years or so. I’m glad you have achieved peace and that you might even smile at his memory.


    • wolfshades says:

      I hope your husband gets some peace eventually. But yeah – I wouldn’t even want to guess at a time limit to this stuff. It’s likely very different for everyone. I envy those who can do it early, because having that baggage and angst is hard too. There’s nothing magical about it, unfortunately, and there is no doubt that for some it will never go away. Just hope that’s not the case with your husband.

      I doubt I’ll ever get to the point where I can smile at my dad’s memory. I mean, I can at certain parts – like when he took a blow torch to a brick of ice cream to melt it. But overall – no.


  8. […] written about my father before. This is not about […]


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