My father and I did not share as close a kinship as some families. At times, our relationship was contentious, distraught by a strong disagreement over trivial matters. My mother, as the intermediary, would always stand ready to intercede with words of encouragement. She would often tell me my father and I were too much alike. Perhaps she was right. As I grew older and much wiser, my relationship with my father grew stronger. My love for God served as my guide. It was as if the battle between us was over and we finally understood how to relate to one another. He was my dad, and I learned to love him the way he was without the constant struggle over ridiculous disagreements.
I remember once, as a young teenager of 13, my father found an old lawnmower under the house we just moved in. He tried endlessly to crank the old beast without success. Finally, he set it aside for the trash. The next day, after school, I took the mower apart to discover how it worked. My curiosity often provided the kindling for another disagreement with my father. Obviously, my dad did not share my enthusiasm for learning. I had the mower apart in pieces all over the front porch when my father got home. He quickly scolded me and said I was just making a mess. He demanded that I gather all the pieces of the mower and throw them in the trash. I did not obey his wishes, though. I carefully inspected, cleaned, and meticulously reassembled the lawnmower. By nightfall, I was cutting the grass with the old beast. My dad was livid. He said nothing, he just ignored me. It was later in life that my curious nature lead me to become an engineer.
My father and I would share many more episodes, like the one above. It was as if my curiosity was his embarrassment. I never intended to make him look bad, but that was the way he interpreted it. Instead of congratulating me for the accomplishment, he hid behind a wall of shame of his own creation. I still don’t know why he felt threatened by me. For years, I felt like I was a big disappointment to him. My father was not active in supporting my successes in sports or other activities, either. My mother would ensure me he was very proud of me, but just didn’t show it.
My dad instilled in us the virtues of hard work. He was always encouraging my brother and me to take advantage of the many opportunities to make money. He grew up in a poor family that struggled financially. His father was an American Indian who never learned how to read or write. He struggled to find a regular paying job. As the oldest son, my father worked at an early age to help support the family. Thanks to the military, my dad was the first one in his family to graduate from college. I was always proud of him for that accomplishment.
As my dad lay in the hospital bed drawing his last breaths, I reflected once again on my childhood. Could I have handled the disagreeable situations with my father a little differently? Perhaps I should have respected his pride and feelings. I don’t know. Then, my thoughts turned to my children. What kind of father was I when they were young? Did my children see me as a tyrant, always insisting on perfection? Did I offer enough encouragement to allow them to grow to be strong but compassionate adults of faith? Conceivably, I could use a do-over in many areas. How am I now as a father of adult children? What can I do to bring us closer together? A second chance might be in order. I am working on it.
My father was not a regular church-goer. As young children, we did not attend church regularly. We did not discuss conversations on faith in our house, except by my mother occasionally. My dad did not respond to religious questions or give us any indications he was a believer. For years, I assumed he was not. I prayed God would one day save him. I tried many times to get him to confess his faith. It wasn’t until my father was sick, and lying in the hospital bed, that he finally confessed he was a believer and accepted Jesus into his life. My youngest son Jody was able to get him to make this confession. Thank you, God.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10: 9 KJV)
One day, I will join my father and brother in the heavenly place God has prepared for us. Until then, I have a second chance to draw my family closer together. On my deathbed, maybe my children can remember the good memories of me instead of the ones that drew them apart.
Goodbye, Dad. I’ll see you in a little while. I love you.