The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Eddie’s Father

What is Eddie’s father’s response each time Eddie decides to make an independent move, away from working at the pier?

How did Eddie’s father’s choices and decisions shape Eddie’s life?

Share your own experience of a decision your parents made that affected your life, for better or for worse.

How was Eddie damaged by his father’s decisions? Do you agree that “all parents damage their children. It cannot be helped”?

For those of you concerned about source attribution, I’m basing some of my discussion questions on those provided by LitLovers, who got their questions from the publisher of TFPYMIH. I sometimes change how they phrase the questions and leave some out, but I’m using them to guide the general direction of the discussion. 




12 thoughts on “The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Eddie’s Father

  1. Eddie’s father’s disappointment in Eddie’s choices to branch out and move away from the pier and away from his family clipped Eddie’s wings and prevented him from exploring what others would probably call his true potential. He was stuck in a low-end job because the pain of disappointing a father who was good at guilt-tripping his son was too great. Eddie’s father had some very obvious issues with proper boundaries and since Eddie allowed his father to violate his own boundaries, they both were trapped in Eddie’s father’s world.

    This theme – the parent living through the child either by trapping the child in the parent’s world or by forcing the child to fulfill the parent’s dreams – is pretty common in literature. I recently read a book – Bitter Melon – with the same theme. Ice Princess, a Disney movie, has a similar theme, as does October Skies.

    A parent’s decision always affects the child’s life, for better or worse, and some parents are too damaged themselves or too self-centered to realize this. I guess all parents do “damage” their children in so much that all parents are human and prone to error and will inevitably make mistakes, mistakes which could hurt the children. I think the difference comes from a parent’s willingness to identify and rectify mistakes. Parents who are willing to apologize to their children and change their behaviors just as they ask their children to apologize and change behavior will definitely cause less “damage” to their children.

    As far as a decision that my parents made that affected my life, I’ll leave that information out of what is already a long answer to some short questions. If you’re really interested, you can check out my blog or contact me personally.

    • I’m not familiar with any of the stories you mentioned! I’ll have to look them up. But I do know this theme permeates literature and there are plenty of everyday examples. It must be really hard to let go of your hopes and dreams as a parent and allow your child to be who they are and not who you want them to be. Children are a part of their parents, but they are individuals and sometimes completely different from their parents!

  2. 1-2. Every time Eddie tried to move away, his father guilted him into staying at the pier. Eddie gave in to his father’s desires and allowed his father to control him in that way. Sometimes, it seems like Eddie acted to protect others (his mother, for example), but he also seems to realize that his father is responsible for the direction his life went. Eddie’s life would have been drastically different if he had pursued his educational and vocational dreams.

    3. Well, I just shared an example about my parents in the question about Ruby, so you can check there for the answer to this question.

    4. I think that whether intentional or not, parents do end up hurting their children in some way, but that doesn’t have to result in the child being “damaged.” I think parents can also help their children understand that everyone makes mistakes and everyone sins and the proper response is to seek forgiveness from God and humbly apologize to those you’ve hurt. The “damaged” child can also seek to grow and change and respond positively, rather than using the parent’s choices and behaviors as an excuse for further wrong responses.

  3. The ways Eddie’s dad damaged him are so sad: neglect, violence, and silence. Eddie is tough like his dad, yet yearns for his dad’s acceptance and never gets it. But in the end he sees that his dad had a good side and that his dad suffered and longed too (his going to the window and calling out for his family before he died).

    Eddie both hates and loves his dad. He doesn’t want to be like him, but he is in many ways: he actually literally has his dad’s old job, he is tough, he has dirty hands. More than that, he is SILENT. After the war and after something that happened in his marriage, silence was his retreat. He doesn’t turn to alcohol and violence, but he did gamble, thus neglecting his wife. And Eddie’s feelings of being trapped may also be how his dad felt since he frequently got drunk (perhaps to escape).

    I wish parents didn’t damage their children, but we’re sinners; we make mistakes. Hopefully the damage we do isn’t crushing or even permanently scarring. But we must be humble and ask forgiveness.

    My father has a terrible temper which he usually controlled but which sometimes flared out of control. I HATED him when he lost his temper, for example when he punched a hole in my sister’s wall. But when I realized that his mother died when he was two, elderly relatives who’d never had kids took him and his sister in, then his dad remarried, his dad was a drunk (who may have abused them; dad doesn’t talk about it), and he was locked in a dark closet to punish him when he was a kid, then I have compassion on my dad, and my anger at how he expressed his anger in our home is mitigated by the anger he probably suffered under as a child himself. Such cycles of pain. How we need Jesus. All creation groans for His kingdom and His redemption.

    • I agree with you, Mercy, that remembering another person’s story, or just assuming that the person probably does have a story of some sort behind him/her, can diffuse some of the anger we feel toward that person.

      My mother also punched holes in our walls, and slapped me and my sister, and broke our toys in her anger. It scared me and angered me, as I can see the same angry beast residing inside of me. But I, too, can look at her past and see that she was/is dealing with a lot, and that she hadn’t had the chance to learn how to react differently to her frustrations. In this way, instead of merely being angry at her, in a way I also pity her. She is a slave to her past, which is something I am choosing not to be, but for whatever reason she didn’t/couldn’t make that choice.

      One of the few good things I took away from my time in Fundyism is the phrase “Hurting people hurt people.” Remembering that helps me to show others the grace that God has shown to me.

    • Fundyism is a short way of saying fundamentalism; for many of us it specifically means the time spent in churches self-identifying as Independent Fundamental Baptist. Originally fundamentalism meant holding to the fundamentals of the faith – the virgin birth, the miracles, the divinity of Christ, His bodily resurrection – but eventually fundamentalism became known for primarily separation from other Christians and for holding to strict rules of living. These rules vary depending on what church you are in but may consist of such things as no reading any Bible but the King James Version, no listening to rock music including any Christian music that includes a beat, no going to movie theaters, etc.

  4. What is Eddie’s father’s response each time Eddie decides to make an independent move, away from working at the pier?

    How did Eddie’s father’s choices and decisions shape Eddie’s life?

    Share your own experience of a decision your parents made that affected your life, for better or for worse.

    How was Eddie damaged by his father’s decisions? Do you agree that “all parents damage their children. It cannot be helped”?

    Answering in reverse order;
    I do not agree that all parents damage their children. It is the only sentence that I read by Albom that I said out loud, to myself, “no”.
    The decision my Dad made that affected my life the most was to stop drinking when I was very young. Enough said . A second decision was to move to a small farm within a mile of a small village. It was a good place to grow up.
    Eddie’s father ridiculed Eddie to his face.
    Eddie’s father was a drunk and abusive. The saddest part of the book for me was the description of Eddie being beaten even after he had gone to bed (not that it is OK at any other time). I am missing something here because I can not find anything about what Eddie’s mother did to protect her children.
    I think Eddie was as much held back by his injury and then his father’s death and the need to care for his mother.

  5. Eddie was certainly damaged by his father. He was robbed of his self worth through the beatings, and yes, there were many ways that he mirrored his father’s behavior, but not to the same degree. Had he left to seek his fortune, he would have left with damage done. I can not get to what I really want to say here, but it is something about a child being abused, robs the adult of joy and self worth. It then takes intention to regain these losses. There was not the psychological climate around Ruby Pier to do this.

    • Albom wrote that Eddie prayed that his mom would come when his dad would beat them, but she would stand helpless in the doorway and cry and he’d realize having her there and seeing her unable to help them was worse.

      I agree that abuse often robs a person of joy and self-worth which can be hard to regain. And then add the childhood abuse to Eddie’s experiences as a POW and you have a very damaged person.

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