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  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

A heart-breaking anniversary of my broken relationship with my father

I have not spoken to my father in a year. That sentence is hard and sad to write and even harder to fully accept.

Last February my wife joined other educators to protest the termination of Corey Wise by the Douglas County School Board. She had known him since they worked together in the same building during his first year teaching. More importantly, she trusted him as a superintendent who had extensive experience in the classroom.

As I watched the board meeting, my father arrived at my house because we had planned to go out for dinner. I explained what was happening and he promptly began to mock the protesters. I reiterated that my wife was among them, and it was important to her, but he persisted. Using derogatory language and flailing his arms like Donald Trump mocking a disabled reporter, he derided her efforts.

And I lost my temper.

I yelled at my father over the chair that separated us and told him to either stop insulting my wife or to get out of my home. He chose the latter. As he went, he barked back, “I’m done with you. We’re over.”

Those are the last words I heard from my father.

He is not the first person to walk out of my life in similar fashion. My middle brother has estranged himself from the rest of our family. My childhood best friend ended 30 years of friendship over a board game.

Each of those instances hurt me deeply. I spent years thinking about them. I ran through those relationships and their end over and over in my mind. I thought about what I had valued and what I had lost. I analyzed how I had been treated or treated them. I considered what each of us had contributed to the eventual outcome.

Eventually, I even sought the help of a mental health professional — something I should have done much sooner — to sort through those questions. With her help, and the support of other family members and friends, I eventually came to realize that those relationships had been unhealthy for me for a long time before they ended.

For too long I had let ugly mistreatment slide to preserve an ideal of those relationships that did not match reality. While I am hardly a shrinking violet, in my personal life I have often been too conciliatory and too accepting of bad behavior directed toward me. That is something I began making conscious efforts to combat by surrounding myself with people who were more considerate and caring.

That is what made my father walking out hurt so much more. My whole life we have watched major sporting events together, from pre-Saban era Alabama national title pursuits to Matt Holliday sliding across the plate in Game 163.

We were in the Coors Field stands together on Father’s Day when Nolan Arenado hit for the cycle on a walk-off homerun. We have hiked the Colorado Trail together and off-roaded in his customized Xterra. We used to talk politics, but had to curb that as his views, like many others, became increasingly bombastic and confrontational over the past few years.

Despite that history, and despite knowing about the trauma I had endured from others, he chose to hurt me in the most painful way he could. We texted a few times in the immediate aftermath and he made it clear that he had no intention of ever apologizing.

He did text me on my birthday in December. He ended it, “I wish you well even though we are destined not to meet again in this lifetime. Dad.”

This is a column I never intended to write. However, over the past week I read a column by a prominent journalist about his estrangement from his father and a touching essay by a political colleague about the effects mistreatment by others has on our lives. Both hit a nerve for me as the anniversary of the broken relationship with my father approached.

Then I watched The Banshees of Inisherin — which should win all the Academy Awards. The tragic story of a broken relationship ends with Colin Farrell’s character staring out across ocean toward the Irish mainland, and away from his one-time friend, and saying, “Some things there’s no moving on from.”

I hate that that line seems to be so true about someone I loved so much.

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