Not Your Typical Father’s Day Post

It’s been a bittersweet exercise to thumb through my Facebook and Instagram feed today. It’s Father’s Day; a day set aside to honor dads.

Scrolling through the posts, I see the thank you’s to amazing fathers. I witness the blessings and joy these fathers and grandfathers are to their children and grandchildren.

I also see the missing my dad posts. Some are fresh hurts, others said goodbye to their father many, many years ago yet the pain and loss are still very real.

I see another type of post. It is sandwiched between the best dad ever and the I miss my dad terribly. It is unseen because it is left un-said. Not posted. Not voiced.

There are those who have longed for years to be called daddy and have not been able to hear those glorious words spoken from the lips of their very own offspring.

There are others silently posting: I wish I had a dad worthy of this holiday. Whether living or passed on, they wish that they could with conviction say that they love their dad or miss their dad terribly. But the words fail because their dads failed.

It’s a tough spot…father’s day. Celebrating, and rightfully so, those who have fathered well. They’ve made mistakes, of course, but at the end of the day they have loved and lived well the role of father. Today is my sixth father’s day without a father. It is also my sixth opportunity to honor the father, the amazing daddy, that my husband has become!

There’s a part of me that dreads every Father’s day. Each year I grieve a loss. Like a tormented King Saul, my father struggled and fought to be a good man and although he tried, my dad sadly failed more than he triumphed at being the daddy my family needed. Most of my memories are filled with proof he failed. There are a few sweet moments I try to hold onto wishing they would wash away the painful recollections. Sometimes my intellect wins out and I can see and name the psychological demons that so tormented my dad’s mind. In rare moments of grace, I can sympathize and even applaud his fight to overcome his own abuse-filled childhood. In many ways he did overcome. But not completely. Although hurting people hurt people, that doesn’t mean that I deserved to be hurt and that is what stays with me the most.

Amidst my dad’s bi-polar tendencies, my dad lived with epilepsy. My earliest childhood memory involves a thanksgiving gone awry because my dad had a seizure just before we prayed over our meal. Throughout my childhood, seizures and black-outs were a constant and often daily occurrence. I recall one weekend while home from college sitting with my dad on the front porch. I took a chance and began pouring my heart out to my dad. I shared experiences from school, dreams I had for the future, and ideas I was chewing on. One minute he was smiling and engaged, the next his eyes had a distant look. In that moment I knew his body was present but his mind was elsewhere. The epilepsy had taken over. My shoulder’s slumped and my heart sunk. In a moment of vulnerability my words fell on the deaf ears of a man experiencing a mild seizure. As I sat there, stunned, waiting for my dad to come to, I felt God speak to my heart.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” My dad had left me but my Heavenly Father was right there.

A dear friend texted me today because she understands what it’s like to scan the card aisle in desperate search of a father’s day card that doesn’t cause too much pain to sign and deliver. She shared a beautiful scripture passage and left me with a great reminder. She reminded me of the amazing fathers that both our children have.

Oh the redemptive work of Jesus!

I have a choice to make. I can wallow in what I’ve lost or rejoice in what I gained on the day our first child was born. I choose to rejoice.

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Although I will likely struggle on days like today for like…always, I am thankful for the father’s love. I do not have many fond memories of my dad to look back on but I witness daily the richness and blessings of a daddy who loves his children oh so much. The Lord redeems my childhood in every hug, every smile and every word of affirmation my husband speaks over our children. It’s a beautiful thing.

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I can’t speak to your pain or joy….

But I will try anyway:

If you have a wonderful father, I rejoice with you. You are so blessed and I am very thankful you have this gift!

If your wonderful father is no longer living, may he live on in your laugh, in your smile, in your child’s determination or sense of humor.

If you have experienced the loss of a child or never had the opportunity to hear those sweet words: Happy Father’s Day from the lips of your child, may the God of all comfort give you peace.

If your relationship with your child is strained, may God restore it.

If your father is not, or was not, what you hoped he should be, may God redeem your story through the miraculous transformation of your father or through the provision of men in your life who honor you as a child worthy of love.

“See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God. And that’s what we really are!” 1 John 3:1a

Making Beautiful Day 6: Possible

My dad on my wedding day.
My dad on my wedding day.

I’m sitting here watching the most recent version of the Cinderella story. I have to say it is both beautiful and heart wrenching.

I always knew that Cinderella lost her parents. I always knew that her stepmother was mean and her stepsisters were a bit nasty but wow! This movie brings so much perspective to the reality of dear Ella’s plight as an orphaned girl left in the selfish and neglectful care of people who neither wanted her nor deserved her.

There’s a scene where she is thoroughly exhausted and broken. Tears streaming down her face, she leaves her house to ride her horse. She comes across a stag and although she is in the depths of heartache she shows great compassion. As her mother told her in her dying days: “Have courage and be kind”.

And so she finds courage despite her difficult circumstances and she shows kindness to her evil stepmother, her stepsisters, a frightened stag, even little mice. In her darkest moment, she still shows kindness to an absentminded old woman.

My dad’s birthday was Wednesday October 14th. He passed away nearly 5 years ago. In my heart I hold many memories. Some are so precious. Some are painful.

On his best days, my father knew no stranger and his deep belly laugh would turn heads.

Sadly on his darkest days, the very ones deserving of his greatest kindness were often the recipients of words and actions that cut deep leaving scars that continue to seek healing.

For me, it has been a constant battle to wade through the realities of my dad’s mental illness and the very real hurts that I experienced.

On the day my father passed away, my mom found a handwritten note posted in the bathroom with a quote from one of his favorite movies: “I choose to be pleasant”.

I may not have been able to fully experience on earth the daddy I hoped to have but I know that he wanted to be that person.

I can choose to be bitter or choose to honor the beauty that was his laugh, and hold with great fondness our mutual affection for Boston Creme Donuts and treasure his Donald Duck impression that would have kept my kids in stitches for days on end.

Life, indeed, is not always easy. And we all have a past that may not be as beautiful as we would care to admit.

The future, however, is full of promise…full of the most wonderful possibilities. I can love my children with reckless abandonment, I can join my husband on this grand adventure of marriage, I can suck the marrow out of every sunrise and sunset and have the courage to be the woman God has called me to be.

And that’s beautiful.

 

Remembering My Dad

Talking about my dad is such a hard thing. Mostly because it always stirs up polar emotions.
He could do a great impression of Donald Duck and my love for Boston Creme Donuts is because of him. I learned how to write my name in cursive and how to do division in my head all because of his loving attention to me his daughter.

He is also why words mean so much to me. He often would use them to bring encouragement and joy but just as often his words could cut deep leaving wounds unseen by the human eye but felt longer than those of physical marks.

At my father’s memorial service nearly four years ago, I shared that he was much like King Saul(in his later years)…tormented, without peace and not the man he used to be.

It’s hard to look at someone that so many saw as gentle and kind and hope to see the same attributes but instead recall the words and actions that were taken behind closed doors.

Today I remember his birthday. He would have been 60 years old. I mourn parts of him that will never know my children. There are also parts I am relieved my children will never have to experience.

We speak of Poppy on occasion. He’s in Heaven and one day we will see him. The man who is no longer tormented by mental illness, who no longer bears the chains of his own childhood abuse. He’s been freed.

I loved him. I really did. I miss him. I really do. I grieve the man he could have become.

May he continue to rest in peace and may the more admirable parts of his legacy live on in me and be passed onto my children.

I love you Daddy.

Your Sweet Pea always,

Patty

 

My dad on my wedding day.
My dad on my wedding day.