Friday, June 18, 2021

Another Father's Day ... Without a Father

 Another Father's Day ... Without a Father

I grew up without fathers. My paternal grandfather died when my father was only a child. My maternal grandfather died when I was eight. My father died when I was nine. Father's Day did not have much meaning in my life, until I became one!

I became a father sixteen years after my father died. I was beyond anxious. I did not have a clear image of what a father should be. I did not have the benefit of seeing fatherhood modeled for me in my teenage years. And now, I had a son. I was now a father.

Looking back there are many things I wish I had done differently. I blew many teachable moments with my children because of the fear of getting it wrong. Well, I got it wrong. A lot. Somehow, all three of my children have become amazing adults. My sons are both amazing fathers, in my personal opinion, in spite of me. I give their mother most of the credit for how they turned out. She balanced the scales by being such an amazing mother.

If you still have your father, regardless of the relationship you have with him, go see him. If needed, ask forgiveness. More likely the case, forgive him. Realize that he tried. Even if he got it wrong, know that he tried. Tell him you love him. Tell him you are o.k. Just tell him something. I realize that it is his place to reach out to try to mend broken fences. Reach out anyway. Your father has something that you need. It's part of God's plan. Even if your father blew it, he still has something that you need. Try to redeem lost opportunities by restoring fellowship.

It's easy to justify bearing a grudge when you have been wronged, especially by your father. I know the questions. Why weren't you there? Why did you do that? Why did you not love me? Why? Why? Why? I've asked those questions many times in my fifty-two years of fatherlessness. Here is my conclusion that led to a totally different outlook on fathers and fatherhood. I forgave my father for dying!

During a counseling session years ago (the one and only time I remember seeing a counselor) I came to realize that I was holding my father responsible for many things in my life. He was my hero. He was a super-hero. A man's man, rough and rugged, smelled of Old Spice and foot powder. He could do anything. A police officer, a sergeant in the Reserves, a Boy Scout and Cub Scout leader, a deacon, father of five, still married to their mother, a loving son to his aging mother, handyman to the widows on our block, could rebuild a V-8 in the backyard, and on and on I could go. How dare he up and die when I needed him the most? How could he abandon me in my time of greatest need for a father, a mentor, a provider?

My father never abandoned his wife, family, friends, church, etc. His life was taken from him while trying to protect the citizens of Birmingham. Just so you know, God did not take him, as some ministers tried to convince me while grieving in the hospital waiting room. My father was only doing what he had sworn an oath to do: Protect and Serve.

After forgiving my father for dying, and realizing that it was ME that had placed him on a pedestal which no man deserves to be placed, I was able to process many things that led to my own inability to father the way my children needed. It came many years too late, in my opinion. I have asked their forgiveness. I have committed to be a better father, and now, grandfather, so that I cause no further emotional harm to them.

Back to Father's Day. Reach out to your father. If possible, see him. If not, call, FaceTime, Zoom, chat; whatever you have the ability to do. Give him some slack. You may have no idea why he did what he did. Regardless of the reason, press toward reconciliation. Even if he rejects it, you can live from this moment with a different mindset and hopefully be a better person. If your father is not living, write him a letter. Even though he will never read it, your children and their children can. Leave a legacy for them.

Happy Father's Day! I hope it is the best one yet.