This is the most personal thing I have ever written.
I just rewatched Field of Dreams. I am not sure how many times I have seen it before but enough to know large parts of it by heart. It has always choked me up because it is a beautiful film and I love baseball. My reaction was different tonight was different. For the first time, watching Ray Kinsella reconnect with his father, John, hit me on a very personal level.
My relationship with my father, John Gill, was the most important of my early childhood. I lived and died by what he thought of me. I was a Met fan because he was. I loved the Niners because he did. It is possible that I volunteered on Democratic campaigns (starting at age 8) because maybe it was what I thought would make him appreciate me. I am not going to lie. I am feeling a bit rudderless right now. Who exactly am I?
There is something that happens to you when the one person from whom you get your sense of self and self-worth rejects you completely.
It took years of mental and physical abuse for me to turn on him. I mean years. Even after he tried to kill me, several times, I wanted to go home to his house.
I took the hurt of that early rejection and I mummified it in a coating of anger. Anger is a secondary emotion, hiding something else. That hurt was so deeply buried that I thought my anger was a primary emotion. I had (and have) plenty of real reasons to hate my father. He beat me, tried to kill me, sent private investigators to follow me. He made me feel unsafe in my own head and when I had nightmares about him, I soothed myself with you never have to get married.
This facade fell briefly when I came back to his (and my grandmother’s) house. I found dozens, if not hundreds, of letters from writers he had helped. My first reaction was that old rejection he helped all these people and he never helped me. I went back to hating him almost immediately. How can you feel sad about his death? He was an awful person. He was but that isn’t the point.
When Ray reconnects with his father, I cried because that reconnection was something I have always craved. Something I have always longed for. Even if I didn’t know it. Watching that scene made all that anger and hate fade away.
You don’t forgive people because they deserve it, you forgive them because you do. This anger has been eating me up for most of my life and I just cannot hold onto it anymore.