being

I am at Curious Grace Community Cafe, Pine Avenue, Mildura, and I am sitting at a table by the window with my friend who is telling me the story of how she forgave her father for sexually abusing her as a child.
‘He had Alzheimers at the end of his life,’ she tells me, ‘so he had no recollection of what he had done. For him it did not exist. It existed only for us so there was no where to go with it, no confrontation to have,’
Some tears appear in her eyes as she tells me this and she pulls her shawl tighter around her shoulders and then she takes a purple napkin from a napkin holder on the table and wipes under her eyes, absorbing her tears.
And then she tells me that her uncle had also abused children.
And I don’t know what to say so I just keep looking into her eyes, eyes that look as if they are always smiling, and I intently listen as she talks.
‘So my dad eventually had to be moved into a home, and he hadn’t wanted to go and he was belligerent,’ she says, ‘but then as the Alzheimers progressed he just changed, he accepted it. The truck came to move his things and he said look, there’s a truck, look, they’re taking our things,’
Then my friend goes quiet and wipes at her tears again.
‘And he became a sweet old man but I had forgiven him long before the Alzheimers hit, long before he got so old and had forgotten what he had done,’ she says, ‘and that forgiveness came from praying together and it was then that I came to love him unconditionally,’
Then she goes quiet again and blots at tears from under her eyes.
‘It was like God took a scalpel to his memory and removed the toxic parts and gave us a new landscape on which to build a relationship,’
And then she tells me that as the Alzheimers had progressed even further, her father, always a story teller, had kept a small spiral bound pad in his pocket.
‘The last one I found, after he died, had only 2 pages filled. The first one was an order for a cake and coffee for a fellow resident and the second one,’ she says, ‘…here, I’ll show you on my phone,’
While she looks through the photos on her phone I ask her a question.
‘So, to all intents and purposes he was a different man,’ I say, ‘he was not the father who had done those things to you because he had no idea he had done them,’
‘Yes,’ says my friend, ‘and that is the man I had the unconditional love for,’
And then she says ‘A-hah’ and shows me a photo on her phone of a piece of spiral bound note paper.
And written on it, in an unsteady old man’s hand, are the words- “Being James G…… does not make me an expert at anything only perhaps at being friendly.”

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