Last week, after waiting four decades for this moment, I finally got to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade live this year seated right by the tv cameras– a dream come true after freezing my butt off for years watching the parade while standing with the masses on the streets.  It was truly an amazing sight, but what really made this moment all the more special was that I was able to share this experience with my mother, a cancer survivor who had never been to the parade, and my son, who doesn’t remember when we went years ago.  Together, it is something we can cherish for the rest of our lives, and with that we will always be reminded of the power of forgiveness.

Three years ago, when I decided to go in search of my dad, let’s just say my mother was not supportive of this endeavor.  To be fair, even my closest friends were worried about this decision to  open up my deepest wound in my life.  Many could not understand why I was taking such a huge risk back in 2010, and while they worried about the possible trauma that I might suffer if grossly disappointed, I just focused on getting some answers for my son about our family history, although little did I realize at the time that I was the one who really needed the answers in order to find peace.

After various trips to Florida the last few years, I have a far better understanding of the characters involved, and many tears were shed as we all came to grasp the depth of how much was lost and would never be recovered.  However, everyone involved has stepped up to create some of the best family memories over the last 3 years helping that inner child in me that longed for so much to finally heal.

There is no dispute that I am not the same person I was three years ago, and the evidence is all there as the entire journey was captured digitally in my blog, on Facebook, and later in over 50 tv episodes where I have revealed bits and pieces of my story. While there remains a lot that I have not shared out of respect for other’s privacy, I do believe it is important for others to understand that we all have family baggage that we carry, and at some point– especially during the holidays– we must try to find it in our hearts to forgive our makers for their mistakes, accept their character flaws, and just let the past go and enjoy whatever time we have left together.

It is not easy to let go, and as evidenced by my journey, it took me years to piece together my family puzzle.  Ironcially, I may never have done so if my own immediate family had not fallen apart when I got divorced 8 years ago, which proves that sometimes amazing things happen as a result of great tragedies.

As the floats went by us and the performers did their songs and dances, I have to admit my mind wandered a lot as I thought about all the litle miracles that have happened to make that moment possible.  At one point, I guess my mom’s mind had been wandering also, and she turned to me and asked me how I could forgive my dad.  It was with great mercy that I simply said, “we cannot turn back the clock and undo things, so I’ve just learned to let the past go.”

Families are complicated, but this year particularly they showed me just how much they can rally and be there in a time of need.  So if you have some unresolved issues with your loved ones, this holiday season, maybe you can try to create your own holiday miracle by making an effort to mend those ties.  Forgiveness is the best gift you can give not just to others, but to yourself.  I promise, it is far better than anything you can find under the tree wrapped with a pretty bow.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.