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This man is Tim Nines, my father. His legal name is Charles, like my own, but nobody ever called him by it. The legend of Tim has it that his uncle Joe named him tiny Tim because he was  such a skinny little baby. The name stuck but the weight never did.

This photo was taken in 1956, five years before I was born. By the time I was eight that youthful, hopeful face had been replaced with a much more bitter and cynical one. That was the year I first experienced his anger; not “This is going to hurt me more than it does you” but blood in my teeth. That was the year I cancelled him.

I stopped paying attention to anything he did that might have been good. His sacrifices lost their meaning and I denied him any opportunity to overcome my disdain. I saw him for the last time two weeks before he died. He had stage 4 metastatic lung cancer that had spread to his liver and spine. His suffering must have been unbearable, but still I would not relent. I thanked him for teaching me how to be a man, which sounds good right now, but I was really just setting him up for the crushing blow I was about to deliver. What followed was a litany of every time I could remember when he did something that hurt me or set a bad example of how a good man should act. I told him how it would have been better if I felt like he took a little pride or pleasure in being my father instead of treating that whole experience like it was some shitty job he didn’t want to do but was stuck with it. Of course, I didn’t bother to consider how much of that I brought on myself.

He cried. That was the only time I ever saw that and it haunts me. When I left for home I was avenged, satisfied. Looking back through the corrective lenses of 20/20 hindsight I am appalled by my cruelty.

So now we are mired in the so-called “Cancel culture”, one in which people are condemned and disenfranchised for doing or saying something that angered or offended someone else. This offense may not even be as bad as the worst thing their bleeding victim ever said or did, but that’s how it is treated by people who won’t look at a person’s deeds, words or thoughts in the context of their life experience as a whole. The greatest hypocrisy, I say this because I have, often as not, been a hypocrite myself, and it takes one to know one, is that these sorry ass people lack the courage to step under that microscope themselves. Go ahead and cast the first stone, assholes.

Tim, I’m sorry for all the years of picking at the scab so my beloved pain, anger and self-pity would never heal and I could hate you forever.  I am forever grateful for this final lesson in how too be a good man: The longer you hold on to your anger, righteous or not, the harder it is to let go and the more it hurts when you finally get to the point where you have to. Sleep tight, (not Tim), Daddy.