For a sort of Father's Day tribute to this handsome man, my beloved husband Brian, you can refer to my post of a few days ago. But, he knows what a wonderful father I think he is. I tell him every day. And, Sophia's hugs and James' contented sighs are a daily reminder to him that his children love him. This Father's Day, I would rather pay a tribute to another father, one who I think sometimes doubts that I think he is a great dad but shouldn't ever doubt it.
This is a tribute to my own dad. Here he is with Sophia, a year ago, on her first birthday:
It's no secret that my dad and I don't always see eye to eye on things--even the important things--sometimes even especially the important things. But, God knew what he was doing when he gave me my particular dad, and I don't just mean in the sense that it is owing to half my genes coming from my father that I could be born. I mean in the sense that, I believe, God is working through my relationship with my dad in profound ways, and that these works of His could never have come to be if my dad were not exactly the man that he is.
Our relationship has changed over the years. When I was a little girl, despite my extremely close relationship with my mother, it was dad ("Da") that I idolized. If I didn't feel well or had a bad dream, it was Da that I called for and who layed with me until I could fall asleep again. Da took me fishing for sunnies and perch and showed me how to clean and gut them (ew!). Da took me camping and to father-daughter dances. Da played pretend with me for hours--I don't know how many afternoons he spent on his knees wearing a rainbow-striped t-shirt and playing "Twink" from Rainbow Brite just to please me! Da taught me how to sail a boat (and later to drive and dock a motor boat), ride a bike, and light a campfire. Being the family homebodies, we spent endless weekends reading side-by-side, baking our special yeast rolls, and listening to musicals.
Then, I became a teenager. And, Dad lost his job.
Things were hard. Suddenly, I didn't see my father as the invincible, amazing, faultless Da of former days. I was critical of him. He was critical of me, spunky teenager that I was. Things were difficult for him emotionally, as he had built much of his self esteem on his success as a businessman (Did I mention my dad once started a company that made it onto the cover of Forbes magazine? Yeah, I'm very proud of him). Sometimes Dad and I argued, but mainly, we lapsed into a sort of silent existence. He provided for me; I in turn was a pretty good kid and got great grades. Sometimes we'd have a good weekend, but mostly, we just sort of lived in the same house without interacting too much. My mother became our go-between.
Then, I went to college. And, then my dad left my mom and moved away from our hometown. No more facades. No more go-between. Things were raw and painful.
I became more critical of my father. I was hurt and angry with him for the decisions he had made. I was disappointed in him. I found it difficult to respect him; honoring him seemed like it was the most difficult thing God could have asked of me. And yet, I knew I was called to honor him. In addition, I knew how much my father thrived on respect...something he hadn't had much of since the unemployment days; something he craved. For a few years, I told myself he didn't deserve it after what he'd done. I resented him for having a mid-life crisis and acting like an irresponsible, self-centered teenager. I resented the fact that I often felt like I was the parent in the relationship.
Then, I had a child.
The day I told my father that we were having a girl, he cried tears of joy. I knew he was remembering me as a little girl. He was one of the few men I know who really wanted a daughter, rather than a son. A good thing, since I was to be an only child. Though my dad lives far away from us, he comes out as often as he can to visit, and the more time I saw him spend with Sophia, the more I remembered of the old days. The more I saw Da in him again. The more I found to honor and to respect. The easier it became to love unreservedly again, the way I had done as a little girl.
Dad and I still don't always see eye to eye, even on many of the important things. Sometimes I still get angry with his choices. Sometimes we still hurt each other. There's a lot of messy history, much of it still unresolved. Sometimes I still feel like I am the parent, but I no longer resent that. We are called to love when it is difficult, and I have learned that, sometimes, loving my dad means loving even when it's hard, even when I don't think he deserves it. It has been one of the most transformative relationships of my life, one of the most challenging but also one of the most fruitful, and I am grateful.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of our relationship is that my dad and I do not share a common faith. Whereas my entire life is centered on my relationship with God, my father has lost his faith. But, I hope and I pray that, as God has used my relationship with my father to grow and strengthen me, He may also use it to bring my father to faith in Him again. My father gave me life; what greater gift could I give him in return than to share True Life with him?
I love you, Da.