Originally posted in November of 2005, I post this again in honor of what would have been my father's 82nd birthday.
Love you, Dad. Miss you.
My father's ring
would have been my father's seventy-sixth birthday, and I have been
thinking of him all day. Actually, he has been on my mind since October
24th, the day he passed away in 2001. Grief, as I have said before, is
a confusing and complicated journey, but the loss of my father was made
more so by our life together. My father's decision to pursue his
financial dreams and extra-marital affairs meant that he chose not to be
there for the ordinary days of family life. He moved out when I was
just five, and we had a distant relationship for years.
came a time, after I had begun my own family, when I realized I needed
to forgive my father for not being there as I was growing up. It was
something I needed to do for my own emotional health, as well as
something that was necessary for any relationship to exist between us.
First, though, I had to be honest with myself about the wrongs. That
was difficult and seemingly counter-productive. I knew I didn't want to
stay stuck in the muck of blame and bitterness, but in order to say, "I
forgive you" I had to acknowledge what it was that went awry.
Forgiveness is not denial, it is not "looking on the bright side", it is
not "That's okay." Forgiveness is facing the truth, and that meant the
truth about me as well as Dad. I had experienced the life-changing
forgiveness of Christ; how could I possibly withhold my forgiveness from
another person, especially someone I loved so deeply? It was like a
breath of fresh air that I hadn't breathed for decades. It released all
the unrealistic expectations that my father could not meet. It
released me from the fear of failure as a mother, and it allowed me to
experience deep and lasting peace.
I would not be the
woman I am today if it wasn't for my father. Some of that I learned
from his negative example. I have a deep desire to be trustworthy, I am
very wary of mingling family relationships and financial dealings, and I
looked for (and, thank God, found) a man who is faithful in the
ordinary moments of life. My commitment to enjoy today, with all the
budget constraints and laundry and ordinary-ness, comes from watching
Dad always dream of something big that we could do together someday.
Someday never came for him, and there were decades of ordinary days
that were missed in the dreaming. I also learned from his positive
example. I read, I pour over maps, I play tennis, I love to travel, and
I enjoy conversations with all kinds of people; I even enjoy dreaming
big dreams. These all reflect the positive impact he had on my life.
We had eight joyful years of peace and forgiveness,
my father and I. We talked on the phone, blabbing about home education
and politics and memories and my children. But, emphysema did its
dreadful work, and Dad entered the hospital just after September 11th of
2001. I made a mad rush back to his home in Tennessee, only to sit by
his hospital bed and pat his hand. I cried and prayed and talked to
him, even though they kept telling me he was too sedated to hear. I
wanted him to hear again that I loved him, that I prayed for him, and
that I would miss him terribly. I have no doubt that he knew I was
I loved my father deeply. I miss the smell of
his aftershave and the sound of his kingly voice. Today, in honor of
his birthday, we got out a tape that he and my step-mother made for us
for Christmas 1996. Dad begins the tape with a description of the beach
where they were sitting, the sound of the gulls and the crashing of the
waves. He read of St. George and the dragon from Bill Bennett's Children's Book of Virtues
youngest son, whose middle name is his grand-dad's, sat and listened
for a long time, luring his sister to join him. It was a great way to
I also wear my father's signet ring each day. It bears the words "Deo Gratis", Thanks be to God.
Tonight, I am taking extra time to thank God for His forgiveness, and
for the time I had to know and enjoy and learn from my father. I will
always wish we had more, but there is a lesson to learn even in that.
There will come a time when I will have no more days here on earth, and I
need to remember that each ordinary one is a gift! Thanks be to God,