A wise pastor once preached that "absent or present, good or bad, loving or indifferent, your father has the most profound impact on your life." I wondered -- how could an absent father have an impact? Then I grew up to realize that my friends whose fathers had been absent had definitely missed something. And even I, whose father was physically present a lot of the time, but emotionally absent most of the time, missed something in that relationship.
I just lost my dad in March. He'll be interred at Arlington National Cemetery this coming Friday -- the day after his mother (still living) turns 97. I'm still processing all of this.
I think my dad did the best he could with the equipment he had to work with. His own father had walked out for good when he was about 10. He had been in and out of their lives for a few years, but when he came back again to try to reconcile, he found that his now ex-wife had moved on. Although she married the new man in her life, I think my dad, at age 11, was conflicted about loyalties and manhood and how a father was to treat his children.
They moved back to his stepfather's home town where my dad and brother were enveloped in the love o
f a close family -- but his stepfather's father had died when he was young, and he had never had fatherhood modeled to him either.
So my dad never really learned what life as a husband and father was supposed to look like when it was done well.
He fed and clothed us, paid for our expenses and needs, kept a good job, and deferred to my mother in all things. He did not really know how to show us love. He did not have deep conversations with us. He did not try to help us make better decisions. All of that fell to my mom.
He was a man of his time, and of his abilities. I am grateful for the parts of himself he was able to share. It will be difficult on Friday, but not unbearable. It is time to lay him to rest.