Charlotte Canion

Charlotte's Story:

Being brave can mean letting go of anger and fear. It can mean forgiveness of others and of you, even when there is plenty of blame to go around. Being brave can be the hardest act a person can ever perform.

At least, it was for me.

It was an overcast day without sunshine. The elements seemed to foretell the dread that came with the telephone call from my daughter Cheri’s school. She was in the sixth grade, my only daughter, my joy. The call was from the school counselor. She asked me and my husband to come to the school immediately. She would not discuss the situation over the telephone. My mind raced. Fear began to push faith aside and panic flooded my heart.

My husband and I arrived at the school as quickly as possible. We were rushed into the principal’s office, and a handwritten letter was given to us to read. As I absorbed the words before me, resentment began to replace the panic in my heart. There before me, in my daughter’s own writing, was the revelation of sexual abuse at the hands of my own father. It struck me as a physical blow. I was blind with anger at my father but more unforgiving of myself for failing to protect her from the abuse.

After a few nights at home, we contacted my mother who chose to deal with this information with complete denial. I felt alone, guilty, and afraid of my own rage. The judge required that my father receives psychiatric help. The court appointed a doctor and required sessions. I never knew how many of those sessions he attended, but I do know that when the discussion turned to his childhood and personal abuse, he refused to continue. Due to the statute of limitations, the court ruled they could not force his therapy.

I spent countless hours and days pondering where and when the abuse of Cheri could have happened. My husband and I rarely left our children alone. I recalled that in the summer of ’78, we had to travel out of the country, and we had left the children with their grandparents. The boys loved fishing with their grandmother, NaNa and Cheri, would have stayed with my father. She was six years old at the time.

Cheri was fourteen when the whole truth came out. She had confided in a friend when the burden became overwhelming. Thank God that friend had the courage to take the story to the counselor. Cheri had been brought into the office but could not speak of the abuse. The school counselor suggested that she write out the story that she could recall. That was the same letter that we had been asked to read. I was struck that she had carried this alone for eight years. It deepened my anger.

My father had been a very successful man. His mother had died when he was two years old. He developed no tenderness or ability to show affection- no sense of his feminine side. He became a marine at fifteen years of age and found himself in a foxhole in Guadalcanal during World War II at sixteen. My father was a hard man, a disciplined man. His life had been hard, and his perceptions of what love was left a lot to be desired. I scarcely remember him expressing his love to me with words or actions. I do remember the many times he was drunk. I think he drank to forget his transgressions. Alcohol became his way to escape the realities of life.

Thank God I had a mother who was a cradle Catholic and spent time teaching me the values of life. I have learned love and laughter and how to live through her example and words. It was these teachings that had grounded me throughout my life. It was on this foundation I would find a way through this situation. But at first, my dad was dead to me and my children. Mom would visit at holidays and summers, but my father would never be around my children again. I knew in my heart that not forgiving was wrong, but every time I looked at my beautiful daughter, I could not forget or forgive. God often has other plans in mind.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in Matthew 6:14- 15. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you.   (Cont'd at Right)

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But if you refuse others, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” This scripture began to work something in me. As a believer, being brave must include God in the action. His plan began to change what I felt could never change. It began to change my father and me. I had no way of knowing that God was setting in motion the new events to come.

Twenty years passed and my mom developed Alzheimer’s disease. It progressed slowly and required her long-term care. My father and his stubbornness were on his own. Mom developed a severe illness and it seemed the end was near. I went and brought my father to see her for what we believed was going to be the last time. There was a little conversation between us during that trip. Mom made a miraculous recovery but had to be transferred to a nursing care facility where she remained until the end of her life.

My father lived alone in their home. His stubbornness would not allow him to accept assistance from anyone, so my aunt who had cared for both of them for many years became his sole caregiver. She fell ill with flu and could not get to my father’s house for several days. He had fallen and had lain on the floor for four days, few feet away from the telephone.

When my aunt found him, he still refused care. I ordered that the ambulance takes him to the hospital. I thought my father had a death wish. He refused food and pulled tubes from his body for three days. This was a perfect example of him attempting to control everything. But God had a plan for him. He began to eat, grow stronger, and recovered to the point that he was placed in a nursing facility. The next eighteen months were full of drama, but I never dreamed what was to occur.

As his health began to decline, Parkinson’s took hold of what dignity he had left. He asked to speak to Cheri and asked her for her forgiveness for the harm he had caused. This forgiveness was truly an act of God and helped in healing us all. I began to see my father’s goodness and he, too, released the guilt. He told me he loved me more the last few months of his life than he had my whole life. I finally was able to release the guilt and anger. I buried my dad with full military honors September 2008. I can still hear his voice saying, “I love you.”

My journey to forgiveness was long and arduous. It required bravery on the part of so many. Bravery can sometimes take some time to accomplish -- one step at a time, but it’s worth the journey.

Find out more about Charlotte Canion by visiting her Website, Following her on FacebookGoogle+, LinkedInTwitter 

Charlotte Canion’s YOU HAVE TO LAUGH TO KEEP FROM CRYING / HOW TO PARENT YOUR PARENTS, is based on her own personal experiences assisting her parents with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  Inside, she shares anecdotes and advice to help other “parenting parents” build and reinforce happy memories by remembering to find the humor during an otherwise arduous and often overwhelming end of life journey.  She reminds us all that – when our parents are gone – all we left are memories.  This book will help ensure that the memories we have of our parents remain cherished ones.


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