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June 25, 2012
Life on Planet Kathy
The Fastest Weight-Loss Secret
by Kathryn H. Kidd

If my father were still alive today, he'd be 90, but people in my family don't live that long. He died in 1985. He was sixty-four then.

People talk about oil and water not mixing. Putting my father and me together was like pouring water on sulfuric acid. We didn't just belong in the same room together; we didn't belong in the same state. Boom!

One reason I went to Utah to college was to put as much distance as I could between the two of us. It never occurred to me at the time that the whole family undoubtedly breathed a huge sigh of relief when I left.

When I used to go back to Louisiana on breaks during college and after I became an adult, I used to pray for days ahead of time that my father and I would get along. By the time we got out of the airport parking lot, we were fighting about something. Nobody wanted to be around the two of us when we were together.

I used to think it was my father's fault. He wanted sons, and when he ended up with three daughters he referred to himself as a "three-time loser." That's not something a child wants to hear. When he died, the best thing the priest could say about him in the two-minute funeral service was, "I guess he did the best he could." That's hardly a ringing endorsement of a person's life.

As I got older, however, I realized that I was not an innocent party. I was a child only a mother could love, and Daddy was not my mother.

From the time I was very young I realized I was smarter than my father, and I never let him forget it. To say I was obnoxious was a gross understatement. My father used to bellow, "Respect me!" My answer was always, "I'll respect you when you deserve it."

Somebody should have sat me down and taught me the meaning of the Fifth Commandment. But nobody did, and I plowed ahead, totally convinced that my father was the most horrible person on the planet and I was his innocent victim.

How easily we convince ourselves that we're blameless, even as we sow the seeds of strife!

I may have gone on forever ignorant of my transgressions, if I hadn't heard a talk in sacrament meeting on forgiveness. The speaker was Louise Wynn, and she gave the talk sometime in the summer of 2002. She gave the talk at the time when I was the most receptive. Fluffy was in Poughkeepsie for a six-week class, and I had a lot of time by myself to think.

During the talk, Louise said we needed to forgive our parents -- that we needed to sit down with them and forgive them for not being perfect. I could hardly sit down with Daddy, what with him being dead and all. But I realized I needed to forgive him anyway, so when church was over I got in the car and drove around for a half hour. As I was driving I had a long-overdue conversation with my long-deceased father.

I was pretty blunt in my one-way conversation. I started off, "You were a pretty bad father to me. Let me tell you why." Then I went down the list of all the things he had done to hurt me over the years. It was a long list.

Then I added, "In the interest of honesty, however, I have to tell you that I was a pretty rotten daughter to you. I know you are well aware of all the things I did wrong, but I want to list them for you anyway." I did, and I tried to be as brutally honest on his behalf as I had been on my own.

When I had come up with everything I could think of, I said, "I want you to know that I forgive you for not being the parent I wanted, and I hope you forgive me for not being the child you wanted. If I see you in the next life, I want to be able to thank you for taking on the thankless task of being my father."

I don't know whether my father heard what I had to say. I think he did, but even if he didn't, that conversation made all the difference in the world to me. The anger I'd been carrying around all those years vanished in a moment. It never came back. That conversation was all it took.

I think most of us believe that we forgive others for their benefit. That's not the case. We forgive others because of what it does to us. If you want to lose a hundred pounds, that's the fastest way to do it. Your clothes may fit the same, but your spirit will be entirely different.

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