Dad would have turned 80 years old today. He did not live a particularly good life and ended it begging to see his estranged children before he died of cancer. Only two of the six were there.
I was given the gift of sharing love and forgiveness with him two days before he died. I’ll never forget those hours.
A few random facts about my father came to mind today as I thought about him:
- He liked to cook and barbecue. Often he would make us Sunday breakfast. He taught his children to use table manners. The child who didn’t use the manners would have to eat in the bathroom.
- He demanded that we answer him using the title of Sir and Mom with Ma’am.
- He wrote one letter to me while he was in jail for a year (1972). I still have that letter.
- He introduced me to the guitar, an instrument he learned to play while in jail.
- He was handy with electronics and I have fond memories of tagging along with him to use the television tube-testing machine at a downtown store.
- He loved Marvin Gaye. He and I would pretend to hold microphones and sing “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” Gaye’s famous duet with Tammi Terrell.
It was hard to have a father who would be a joy to have around on one day, and then the next day you just wanted to see him go away. When the day came that he moved away — and stayed away for most of the next 35 years — I wanted to take it all back. Dad, I didn’t really want you to go away. I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry, Dad. Please come back. That’s what you feel as a child. You don’t care what your father has done or didn’t do or is doing. You don’t have the tools or information necessary to fully comprehend why this heart-wrenching event is happening. And, even if you did, you wouldn’t care.
You just want your father. You can’t help it because all that is him just so happens to be half of all that is you.
I was 10 years old when my father moved away for good.
I tried to make up for this loss in many ways. None of those ways did the job. It wasn’t until I became a Christian, 20 years later, that the hole in my heart was repaired. It became filled with the love of God through my faith in Jesus Christ. I came to understand that “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” and Dad was just another sinner who fell short. My heart was healed as I realized that I didn’t need to nor should I keep the anger I had for my father. It was only then that I could move forward with my life in a healthy way. The effects of his absence were no longer in control. My goal was to learn from my father’s mistakes and not be burdened by them.
God’s love enables me to live a joyful life despite the fact that I didn’t have an earthly father I could count on. That’s because, besides recognizing the fact that we are all sinners, I also let go of Dad and the fantasy of having a true father — and held on to God instead.
On this, his 80th birthday, I am happy to know that Dad is in heaven and no longer struggling through life. He’s been there now for seven years. It will be a fine day when I see him again, face to face, both of our hearts filled with the love of God.
One glorious reunion.