For some reason, I can’t seem to escape the connections with my personal life and what is happening in the universe. I always think I have an idea of what is relevant to me and my reflections, then something will present itself and I’ll know in that moment…THIS is what I have to share.
Our fathers, who art…in LIFE.
This phrase should sound somewhat familiar. In the Book of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 9; this expression begins the “Our Father Prayer.”
Most of us learn it as small children. And as strange as it may seem, so many of us have an easier time imagining the goodness of “Our Father” in heaven than we ever have in imagining the goodness of “our father” in life.
Today is the day before Father’s Day. And though it is a date which is represented on the calendar, it does not have the same meaning to all people as its preceding holiday of Mother’s Day.
Some wake up or approach Father’s Day like it’s just another day. Trying to suppress any memory they have of someone who might deserve the recognition of receiving this esteem. Think about it…On Mother’s Day, the cars fill the yards and streets with everyone visiting their mothers; trying to make Momma feel as special as possible. Letting Momma know just how much she is appreciated. On Mother’s Day (prior to COVID-19), you couldn’t take your chances at getting into a restaurant. The lines would be outside the door and around the corner. People change their profile pictures on Facebook to their favorite picture of Mom. When on Father’s Day, we kinda just skip right past it.
This year marks 110 years of recognizing Father’s Day; which means 2010 was the centennial celebration. I’m not certain, but I don’t recall hearing any fanfare about this fact. Why didn’t we know?
Because many of us have “DADDY ISSUES.”
I honestly didn’t realize until I went away to college and the military that this was actually a thing.
For some of us, our fathers are foundational figures in our families; and in them we place value. In fact, it’s much like place values in math. In math, we learn ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, and so on… But if we were honest, sometimes with our actual fathers, we put them on a very similar value scale; depending on what part (if any) they played in our lives.
Like math, we can round their values up or down; contingent on how great the memories and appreciation, or how deep the emptiness and scars.
I, fortunately, was blessed with an amazing man who “stepped” into the lives of my mother and I; and he was everything that I could have hoped in a father. Coach (as he is endearingly referred to) is a kind, funny, patient, loyal, invested, and compassionate man. What he offered to my life was wholeness, aspirations, support, and tons of insight and wisdom. He is my rock. My sounding-board. My voice of reason. To ask if we are close is in an understatement. I literally talk to this man EVERYDAY. My brother calls him Best Friend, and so does my son.
But isn’t it funny how someone who is everything to you, might not exactly be seen that way to others? I have a step brother and sister, and though I think we all have an amazing relationship now…this wasn’t always the case. We’ve always gotten along, but my experience with their dad was not necessarily their experience. Was this any particular person’s fault? No, not really. It’s just life and the reality of the residue left behind with break-ups and divorces. Adults muster through it…while children are left to process it the best way they can. It’s not intentional; but this is a matter that could stand to be dealt with.
The children left with this residue become adults with insecurities and abandonment issues. Some never knowing the true culprit behind these character flaws. But that’s a whole different blog for another day.
There is another part to my story. If I have a step-father, then that means I also have a biological father. I actually still carry his name. I don’t have any recollection of he and my mom’s marriage, or us physically living with him. But they were married, and he is pivotal to my truth.
I spent tons of time with my step-father as a child. He was a teacher and coach, so we were on the same schedule. He taught me to skate, play basketball, catch a softball, how to tell time, my timetables, how to drive, and fish. If it happened, he was there for it. But despite the time I spent with my step-dad, I knew my biological father and loved him. That’s what kids do.
But he was busy. Doing what, you ask? Living. Many folks don’t know it, but my dad was apparently handsome and charismatic. A smooth talker. A lady’s man. And gifted…to a fault. He wanted everything. Had everything. And he wanted everyone else to see it and know about it. He enjoyed that, it seemed, more than being a daddy. I think he liked the idea of being someone’s dad; but in his younger days, he never took the time…or better yet, never was taught or given the proper insight to take on this role successfully. His parents had spoiled him; letting him have his way as a kid and a teenager, and he went into his adult life with this same mentality. It was all about him. I mean, what or who could it hurt? Hmmmm…ME.
I saw my dad around town. He acknowledged me, but he never just had time for me. Time always involved the presence of other people and things; and not always the best people or things.
As a teenager, I played the piano in church. On 3rd Sundays, I played at my grandmother’s church. On those Sundays, I would ask my dad to attend service with me; because up to this very day, he has yet to hear me play or sing. He would agree to attend. Then I would arrive 30 minutes prior church and could hear him moving around in his house, but he wouldn’t answer the door. Afterwards he would give me the excuse that he had to go out and do some job and didn’t have time to call me. I would be so heartbroken; and had to carry that pain within myself, because I could never tell my mother. I didn’t want to upset her or have her say, “I told you so.”
She didn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability to ever be a good person, long-less a good father. He had given her every reason to feel this way.
I remember when I was voted homecoming queen at my high school, my dad gave me $50 towards what I needed. Fifty dollars. His wife at the time, when she realized how he slighted me, she made him come to our house and bring me more money. If she hadn’t, I believe he would have felt justified with just the $50. He did end up giving me substantially more, but still he chose NOT to attend my crowning.
I remember too, for my high school graduation, both my maternal and paternal grandmothers had to convince him to attend. I remember the hurt and anguish I felt that he didn’t care about me enough to attend my graduation—a milestone for every student. Why wasn’t I enough? I loved him. So why couldn’t he love me?
I would learn later in life that he did in fact love me. We just had different love languages. The concept doesn’t just relate to couples, but to most relationships.
Anyway, that fall I went away to college. I would try to call my dad periodically, but he rarely answered. Then it would happen. I received a call my second semester that my father had been arrested and was facing 15 years in prison. How could God allow THIS to happen? I had really been praying for this man, and God would allow THIS!?!? I was very angry with God, and I let Him know it. “All the times I’ve been praying for my dad, asking for you to change him, and you would let him go to prison!?” Well God answered me back…and said…”There were too many distractions for him. NOW…I have his undivided attention.”
In the next few years, I would talk to my dad regularly. His mother and I would go visit him at the prison. It was an all-day affair. We would talk and catch up. Something we had NEVER done.
It wasn’t the best scenario…but it was something.
He was so proud of me and my college accomplishments. Remember, he had missed all my high school ones. I recall when he learned I had made my college’s homecoming court. One of the fellow-inmates read it in the newspaper in the prison library, and told him…”This girl has your last name.” How proud he to brag to the other guys about his daughter who was in college and doing well. You take it how you can get it sometimes.
After college I joined the military, and our communication wasn’t always the best; but I tried to connect when I could. Shortly after, I became a mother; and I saw a joy in my father that I had never known. I had a son—A BOY.
When my dad got out of prison (after six years for good behavior), he wanted to make sure that I had everything I needed for my son. He would send money for pampers. He would pay for daycare. Whatever it took to make this boy…better than him. And my son always had his paw paw’s back too. He would never let me go too long without communicating with him. He always wanted to make sure that THIS paw paw was included and knew he was loved and wanted too. I appreciate my son for that.
I also appreciate my step-father for always acknowledging my dad and making sure that I recognized him. I appreciate him for trying to make my dad feel he was just as much a part of who I was as my step-dad was. You see, my step-dad watered me and nurtured me. He, along with my mother of course, kept me grounded and rooted in those things that would make me successful. Taught me values and the importance of family.
But my biological…he was the seed. So regardless of his absence. The life he lived. His iniquities. Who I am is also a reflection of him.
When my dad got out of prison (the second time for a parole violation), he tried to become a better person. He tried to make things right with people he had wronged. Some relationships were mended. Others, not so much. Some people failed to see him for who he was trying to be, and continued to see him for who he had been.
That’s why we must be careful how we tread upon the earth. Not all footprints are easy to cover up. Some become like fossils; left as evidence for years to come.
In complete transparency, I still struggle with my relationship with my dad. Memories are hard to erase. In times where it seems like he’s talking like he used to talk or doing what he once did, I am triggered to that same little girl who was so heartbroken, and I COMPLETELY shut down. It takes my husband, son, or step-dad to help me move past it. But I am so grateful that those men understand the importance of support to another man enough to encourage me to make amends.
Men, more than women, suffer in silence dealing with their emotions, expressing themselves, and processing feelings. They chance losing very valuable relationships strictly through pride and failure to communicate. Knowing this, I try to do my part not to just give up.
So where is this going?
For a couple of weeks, I had been avoiding conversation with my dad. I was having one of those moments again where I was disappointed and triggered and just hadn’t brought myself to reach out to him. I was eventually, but just hadn’t gotten to that place yet.
As my kids and I drove to the beach in Charleston, South Carolina this week, Dad called.
There was no small talk. He got straight to the point. He is facing a terminal illness. The doctors aren’t for certain if treatment will remedy it.
Shortly afterwards, my step-dad called and wanted to see if I had been informed; asking if I had talked to anyone and if I was ok.
Am I ok?… My thoughts and emotions are still unclear.
I’m not sure what this will mean; but I can say that I’m invested in it, and I’ll be here for it.
On this Father’s Day, I am truly grateful for the birthly father and the earthly father that the Heavenly Father has blessed me with.
As I finish this in tears, I pray that someone reading will take heed that regardless of what place value you may have put your father in, know that he has value because he brought value to who you are.
Love. Forgive. Live…on purpose. Life…is too short.
On this Father’s Day, know that your dad, whether fully present or absent, offered what was needed for your life. There is nothing that we experience that will not bring the substance needed for your book of life.
So, whether you’re reading this the day before, the day of, or afterwards…I challenge you…make a father happy by just acknowledging his value to you.
Know that, when it’s all said and done, you won’t be asked how your father treated you. You’ll be asked how you treated your father…who art…in LIFE.
Please, if this reading helped you, let me know about it. If you think it would help someone else, share it. As we grow, let’s encourage and foster growth in others.