One of my morning readings yesterday carried that title: Your Father. And although it was referring to God as Father, it made me instinctively think of my own father. His name was Alfred, but everyone called him Alf. He died 9 June 1997.
I know that unfortunately there are many people who do not have a good relationship with their father. The sad statistics on child abuse the world over reflect this situation. And I have read that these statistics do not give a true picture of the enormity of this problem because much child abuse goes undetected or unreported.
I was very blessed. I had a very good father but I did not have a very good relationship with him. We didn’t argue or fight and he certainly never abused me. He wasn’t strict or stern. He was just a very quiet person who didn’t have a big personality, and he wasn’t big on showing his emotions – good or bad. (He died without ever having said “I love you” to me.) I used to describe him as nondescript, the kind of person who faded into the furniture.
He was also a product of his times and of his family background. I do remember that his mother, my grandmother, always had a twinkle in her eye. My grandfather, however, was the absolute opposite. I do not remember him with a smile on his face. When we visited them at their house, he was always seated at a table in the very small, very narrow, very dark kitchenette/dining room, staring morosely out the window and drinking a Guinness. They lived in a very small rather bleak apartment and did not have much money. There was not much joy present.
As I made changes to my lifestyle and began to mature (at the grand old age of thirty five!) I began to review the perceptions I had of my father. I realized that I had played a part in the non-relationship that we had. I am guessing that my father did not live up to whatever grandiose expectations that I may have laid on him, and therefore I probably, for the most part, dismissed him.
I need and want to rectify on paper right here and now any mistaken perceptions I may have perpetuated. My father was a totally good man. He worked hard, at two jobs, to provide for all of us. Actually, when I think about it, he worked at four jobs. He had his fulltime job in a civic agency and he also worked a part time job as a supervisor of ticket sales at a dog track. Then at home he also ran a small shoe repair business for friends and family, and when he wasn’t busy at any of those jobs, he created, planted and maintained an incredible garden, providing us with at least 50% of all our fresh vegetables, salad, and fruit. (This was how he said his “I love you’s.”)
As you may imagine, my father was not a “Johnny-go-lightly”. He just didn’t have the time or energy. The only time he left the house was to go to one job or another. He did not go out “with the boys” and he didn’t even go out, as in “on dates”, with my mother. (Even if they had had the money, which they didn’t, they didn’t have the time or the energy.) He was always at home when he wasn’t working. He was always available if we needed him.
I had very few possibilities to make up for lost time in my relationship with Dad. Once I came to my senses I lived for many years overseas so did not get much opportunity to rebuild a close relationship with him during my visits home. And, sad to say, by the age of sixty five/seventy he had lost most desire to be a happy person and was rather difficult to be around.
Because of this I am so grateful to have a deeply intimate and personal relationship with that “other Father”. It did not come easily to me because I carried old ideas from childhood education of a stern and vengeful God. I thought He was a God who would point His finger at me and who kept a running tally of my sins.
I have been blessed a thousand fold since then to have been given teachers along my path who have helped me to find a Father who loves me passionately. In the Old Testament God is called Father only six times, but in the New Testament, through the words of Jesus, He is called Father over sixty times. Jesus himself brought the Father very close to us.
I was also encouraged by my teachers and spiritual mentors to create a personal picture of this person I called Father. If any of you have read the classic story of Heidi you will have a clear idea of how I see my Father. He is the big, Yogi-bear-like Grandfather who takes care of Heidi. I know I can climb up into His lap and pour my heart out to Him, leaning my head on his shoulder and feeling His protective arms around me.
One of the writers whom I have quoted in previous postings has written a beautiful poem about the Father. Written by Ruth Harms Calkin it is titled I Have A Father . I will quote just the last verse here:
But the great triumphant truth is –
I have a Father.
My Father protects and upholds me.
He strengthens and supports me.
Nothing can happen to me
Outside my Father’s will.
My Father is greater by far
Than he who is in the world.
Once and for all it was settled
On a rugged cross
On a lonely hill:
I have a Father.
If you are struggling with father issues I encourage you to seek help to resolve them. You deserve that as a worthy human being. And in the meantime I urge you, from the depths of my heart, to seek a relationship with the one true Father that nobody can take away from you and who loves you dearly.