Father’s day was over the weekend, and I totally forgot about it. I guess I can’t really expect anything different–it was nearly 25 years ago that he died. I never got to know him as an adult, and the truth is that sometimes I hardly remember the person I knew as a child. And I feel a little bad about that.
Chris wrote something a while ago concerning his father, and I’ve been thinking about that on and off ever since. The conclusion I’ve come to is that I think I have pretty strong issues myself–in the heavenly vs earthly father sense, that is. I didn’t realize how deeply my experience with my own father had affected my life until I really tried to think about it, and remember.
My experience with my dad was not abusive, by any means. Nor exactly neglectful. It was just not… loving or nurturing (not really from my mom, either, but that’s a post for another time). He was definately not Ward Cleaver.
My dad would sometimes bring me places with him, but all I can remember about that was sitting in his truck with the windows rolled up and watching him yell at people (he was a cement mason, and I got to visit a few job sites). I remember he would sometimes get so mad the big veins would stand out on the side of his neck and his face would turn red.
Other times he would take me sailing with him, which was something that was really difficult for me (the truth was, I hated it, but was made to go often enough that I became resigned to it, after a fashion)–seasickness was the rule rather than exception. I could tell that it frustrated/disappointed him to no end. Like I should have enjoyed myself, and something was wrong because I didn’t. Still, I would do my best to elicit praise (or really even attention) from him whenever possible. I would bring him coffee in the mornings on weekends when I was small. I would run to the liquor store to fetch the paper. I would sometimes ask to go places with him I really didn’t even want to go just to tag along, and be with him. I remember riding to Thrifty to get ice cream with him on a couple of occasions when I was small, and sitting on the back of his motorcycle, clutching his desperately. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
My favorite memory of my dad was when I was maybe 5. I would get up early sometimes, so I would be there when he left for work. I would say, “see you later, alligator,” and he would respond, “after a while, crocodile.” Not original, I know now, but it meant a lot to me then. Sadly, the older I got, the less I would get up to see him off, and our little routine soon disappeared.
But for the most part, my efforts were to little avail. I’ve spoken to my sisters about it, and the consensus was that it was just how dad was. He would provide, but would not or could not provide much affection. And none of us can remember much but apathy from him toward our own lives. We were all pretty much free to do our own things. I think I would have been satisfied with even a little validation, but like many of the other things in my childhood, the only place I got it was from my sisters.
And the thing that was so frustrating about that was that I wanted him to care what I was doing. I wanted it desperately, but the only time that seemed to happen was when the possibility arose of costing him some money. Like shopping for school clothes. Or getting school pictures taken. I’m sure that much of it was that his work was seasonal, and we often didn’t have much money. Regardless of the reason, what it began to feel like after a while was that I was an obligation, and should not expect to have much spent on me–time, or money, or anything else. I don’t know if that was true, but I do know that’s how it felt. I can still feel it. So I would wear old clothes that used to belong to my brother, or were obtained at thrift shops. If it was new, it usually came from one of my sisters. Dad made it very clear that he did not like to have to “waste” money on things (I know how the preceding paragraph sounds, believe me. I’m just trying for a little clarity about where much of my needs as a child ranked in the household priorities).
Still, Christmases were not that bad (thanks to my sisters, usually). The interesting thing about them is that they were more my parents growing up than my parents were. Anyway, back to my father.
I think the thing lacking most in my relationship with my dad was something I didn’t even know was missing until much later in my life, and when I did, things began to make more sense to me. Well, the plain truth was that he while he provided for me, he did not really father me, in the traditional sense. By that I mean doing dad things–I’m not implying an infidelity by any means–anyone who sees me and a picture of my dad would know I inherited more than just his road rage.
In my opinion, one the main responsibilities of a father is to raise his son, not just being there as he grows, but participating in his life, and teaching him. Passing on knowledge, and truth. Not just throwing a football around, but being there in more than a physical sense. I missed most of that.
In a sense, I can’t blame my father that much–he was over 40 when I came along, and probably thought he was long since done with kids. And when I got older, he was still doing a hard job at a much older age than most of the men he worked for and with. It must have been so difficult. Work was seasonal, and money was tight most of the time.
My main problem since I’ve been a believer has been assuming that Jesus will react the same way my earthly father did. And that assumption helped to generate a great many lies about God, that I’m ashamed to say seemed very much like truth for much of my life.
1. He did not care about me
2. He did not mean for me to be here
3. He did not love me
4. I was not important to him
5. My wants and needs as a child did not matter to him
and many more along those lines…..
The Lord has been working on helping me find the truth of these (in regard to Him). It something that I continually need to refresh myself on, and in truth, it seems like it’s going to take forever. Another useful application of truth to pray for would be the realization that healing is a lifelong process. I know this, but sometimes I don’t know it.
This is something I’ve been battling for what feels like years, and I periodically find myself wandering off into the wilderness, spiritually speaking. Sometimes I feel like God is not listening to me, and I allow myself to believe that he shouldn’t be. I feel like a little kid, following him around and pulling at his shirttails, begging for attention. To tell you the truth, it feels sort of pathetic. The hardest part for me, more often than not, is connecting my head knowledge of God and what I am to Him with my heart.
Because knowing is one thing, but feeling is another. Lately I’ve been realizing more and more that the healing I’ve experienced is great, but I should by no means think I’ve arrived. I am not complete, and I won’t be until I stand before the Throne and Jesus says “Well done.”
What does Jeremiah say? I will find Him when I seek him with all my heart? Something like that. Have I been seeking Him with all my heart? Have I really? Have I prostrated myself before Him in prayer? Have I earnestly and truly sought his counsel? Have I asked him to be my Father?
The answer is sometimes.
When I am at my most bleak, certainly. But have I been sharing the blessings of my life with Him? Of course, they’re because of Him, so he already knows, but have I been going to Him in delight at what he’s shown me and done in my life? Have I been running to Him and saying, “Look, daddy, Look!”
No. I haven’t. I didn’t do that with my dad, either. When I look at him through my adult eyes, I see that he probably did the best he could. He loved me in the way he was capable of loving. He was not a bad person, but he was older than his years, and so very tired. And in that regard, I need to forgive him his shortcomings. I can’t believe it was so hard to really “get” that. I’ve been working on forgiving other people in my life for a long time, and it never occurred to me Dad was one of those people.
I need to confess my own shortcomings as a son as well, and ask Jesus to forgive them. I don’t know if my father is with Him or not, but I know I’ll find out one day–hopefully not for a long time.
….much to do…..
first step is the hardest part.