Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

"Absent or present, engaged or indifferent, living or dead, our fathers have the most defining impact on our lives."

I paraphrase that from a sermon I heard YEARS ago, given by Michael Easley, on Father's Day. I can't remember whether we even had our kids yet, but I know I was still carrying some resentment towards my father for not being the "Ward Cleaver" type that "everyone" else seemed to have.

Boy, have I come a long way. My dad is a human being, flawed and sinful, yet he has spent his entire life trying to overcome his "natural" man. As a young man, he experienced the abuse of his mom at the hands of his dad, the divorce of his parents (very radical in those days), the re-marriage of his mother, the sporadic contact with his biological father, and the difficulty in connecting with a step-father who was not equipped to take on a 12 year old young man who thought of himself as the man of the household.

My dad, because of circumstances that arose in his childhood, felt responsible for his biological father leaving them for good, and carried that guilt into his own marriage. The guilt, plus the lack of fathering examples made it very difficult for my dad to rise above what he had observed and learned and engage at a level that was like the TV dads we saw all around us.

YET, he really tried.  My dad always made sure we were fed and clothed adequately. He worked hard at his military career so he could advance in rank, which meant advance in pay, to have the resources to care for his family. He was home as often as his military duties allowed, and in one idyllic 4 year period in Kansas, was the true "available" dad that we craved. He took us ice skating on a frozen pond, taught us how to work in the yard (a skill that sadly, none of us has really nurtured), created award-winning house decorations for Christmas, and did all the things that showed he loved us.

I'll be the first to admit, of the three children in my family, I have a special bond with my dad. I was the only child born while my dad was home from deployment. I am the one he held in his arms from the beginning. I am the only blond child in the family. I didn't know, until I was an adult, that my dad's hair had been blonde when he was a child. I was born with some medical issues that needed to be resolved, and my dad was on hand to help support my mom as she worked through the medical system to get me taken care of.

When I was halfway through high school, my dad retired from the military and announced we were moving. I was devastated, angry, and hostile. But when it was time to start school in our new location, and the house hadn't sold yet, I was the one who caved in and went to join my father. I was still angry, and carried that anger for years.

But becoming a committed believer in Christ and a parent gave me a completely different perspective. First, I understand that God is sovereign and everything that has happened within my life has been within His control and for my draw me to Him. Second, as a parent I understand that sometimes you make the best choices for your children whether they agree with them or not. As a parent, I am not my children's friend. My dad could not be mine.

And now? My dad is an excellent grandpa. He teaches, nurtures, loves, and spoils quite a bit. I am shocked to discover that he will be 78 years old this August, because he sure doesn't act like an old man. (Well, okay the hearing has really gone downhill and he's a bit set in his ways, but most of the time he doesn't act like an old man!).

Finally, maturing in my own marriage has made me appreciate the difficulty in keeping a marriage alive, especially with a lot of separation. So if their marriage wasn't the ideal, it was intact -- still is. I appreciate the sacrifice that entailed. They did it for the kids.


Sweet Tea said...

Lots of love, compassion, and wisdom in this post. We are all flawed and it often takes maturity to make peace with that fact. GREAT post!

The Bug said...

I agree with Sweet Tea. My father wasn't perfect either - but as an adult I understand him so much better. And also he has mellowed with age - why he's practically an old softy now :)

Lynn said...

Sweet post. It's funny how, when we're kids, we see our parents as god-like figures. I think it takes growing up and becoming parents ourselves to see that they, like we, are simply flawed human beings, doing their best to love in spite of their own less-than-ideal upbringings. Thank you for this reminder :)