Realizing most of my readers are women, this might not be the most pertinent of entries. Then again, I write more as an outlet, so if ANYONE sees this, that’s cool. If anyone might benefit, waaaaaaay cooler. (If you don’t read anything else, scroll down to the end, it’s where I FINALLY make my point :D)
With Father’s Day just having passed, I’ve been thinking about my own father quite a bit. As I posted recently, his health declined over the past year–a horrifying overnight decent–and that allowed us the…privilege…of role reversal, as child became the caregiver for parent. Gratefully, my siblings and I have a lesser role in his care due to his faithful wife of 15 years who has become his greatest advocate, and a team of home health providers.
I have had to slog through what it means to love him…to honor him…to see the value in his life (a body no longer able to process conscious thought). NOT just in lip service, but in action. The spiritual aspect of this, early on, was excruciating for me and my siblings. We have each acknowledged our need for a Savior, but my father never did as far as we knew. What an amazing time to search the Scriptures and to see what God had to say about hope. And that was enough (as you can imagine, that’s another entire story in and of itself).
Before I lived it experientially, a child becoming a caregiver for their parent was a rather romantic notion to me. It sounded lovely and simple and noble. What I discovered was it was one of the most difficult “dying to self” moments imagineable. To witness your father recognizing his loss in ability and dignity, while requiring a dependence on others is agonizing. This is not pretty, but there is beauty. This might sound crazy, but each time I’ve taken a turn in his care, I’ve seen it as a high and holy calling…this is bigtime “not about me”…it’s all about glorifying God through this act of service and love and obedience.
Okay….on to what I planned on writing about when I started today…!
My dad and I have not been close throughout my life, but we have always had a good relationship. He had a lot of baggage from his childhood and relationship with his parents (not good), and I’m rather certain that carried over into his marriage to my mom and to his children. I never knew what he felt about anything, but knew what he thought about most things. As an adult, and then later as a parent, I was critical of my father–inwardly, not openly. I saw his flaws, where he “failed” me as a parent. He was selfish, a compulsive gambler, and did not treat my mother well.
I have always attributed “how well I turned out” (that was NOT an LOL!) (LOL) to 1) my mother, in spite of the fact she died when I was in third grade; 2) to my in-laws, who prayed faithfully for their sons’ wives from the time they were little, and 3) pure GRACE! My siblings and I did well in school, were diverse in our activites, chose good friends and enjoyed healthy relationships, were good employees, etc., etc. I’ve always said I was one of the most “normal” people I know (again, NOT an lol, and really, not a pat on the back. I guess by “normal” I just mean reasonable and even-tempered in my response to life…). I gave my father no credit.
Until now. I think I’ve finally seen that he got some of the most important things RIGHT.
Our pastor shared some insight from Robert Lewis as penned in his book Raising a Modern Day Knight. He mentioned three things [all children] should hear from their fathers: 1) I love you; 2) I’m proud of you; and 3) You do that well [whatever “that” may be] . These are all things I’ve heard from my dad throughout my life, and often. I’ve also just completed reading Captivating. While I don’t agree with everything Stasi and John wrote, and it was doggone hard for me to get through their flowery, artistic, and at times, far-reaching language, I saw additional things my father offered. He assured me (and my sister) of our beauty, both inner and outer; he saw our potential, and recognized and encouraged our strengths. He verbalized this affirmation and he was generous with his touch, hugging or kissing daily, even throughout highschool or whenever I was home to visit. I’m smiling now as I remember his “whisker rubs”–that rough, gruff, 5 o’clock shadow, sandpapered against a child’s tender cheek, that we simultaneously hated but invited and loved.
So…to my father-friends: you don’t have to be perfect. You can have a gazillion flaws and your children can even see ’em. But you still have the chance to make a difference by getting the important things right. I am so thankful I finally have the eyes and humility to see this :).