Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fathers—in Life and Books



How grateful many of us can be this Father’s Day for our earthly, though imperfect fathers or stepfathers. Others, I know, live with stories of not just imperfection but brokennessnot in books but in real life.

You see, the one thing I know for sure about my maternal grandfather is that he broke my mother’s heart.

“Before Daddy left the last time,” she once told me in a rare conversation about her father, “I begged him not to go. But he did, and I never saw him again.” 

Abandoned. She also shared some good and funny memories from her childhood from time to time, but, still, eventually she was literally, physically, heartbreakingly abandoned.

I never knew my grandfather, and I only know that his reasons for those decisions to leave—or at least the driving forces behind them—probably included alcoholism and marital issues. I don’t want to judge; he probably loved my mother very much. I know she loved him. But for my mother, his only child, especially that final decision to leave had a huge impact. Through a Salvation Army service to locate those who were missing to their families, my grandmother and mother learned decades after the fact that my grandfather died in another city, probably alone and destitute. Maybe he had intended to come back, but he never did.

Anne and Matthew
Yes, their story may one day appear in a novel that swirls around in my head and heart. But it is books with beloved, not hurtful, father figures from my childhood that are easy for me to remember and love to this day: Steady Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie; the March sisters’ absent, perhaps somewhat irresponsible but oh so loved soldier father in Little Women; and my favorite: shy, loving, foster father Matthew in Anne of Green Gables. When Matthew (spoiler alert) dies . . . well, I really loved that man. I even named one of my sons Matthew, who is a great dad, to the dismay of a nurse in the hospital who was appalled we did not choose an A name to go with his siblings' names, Amanda and Adam. Perhaps she had just never read about Matthew Cuthbert.

Books . . . If you ask me, they are one of God's great gifts. And no matter what our experiences with earthly fathers have beenin real life or in bookswe can seek and know him, our heavenly Father, the same loving, trustworthy, always-present Father my mother found when her earthly father had gone. 

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9
–10)


6 comments:

  1. What I'm about to say is indicative of the thing In wrestle with most as a writer, and especially as a blogger: I can't write about my family. Why not? Because the truth is hurtful to them. I can't write about the father who basically abandoned me (and continues to, to this day). I can't write about my mother unless what I say is glowing praise, or she spends months being offended. So I confine my family-related posts to my nuclear my family most of the time, chronicling who and where we are now. Some time ago, the wise Ann Voskamp wrote a post about giving your family grace by not writing about their shortcomings, and I have tried to remember that. And of course, I am ever reminded that I have a perfect heavenly father who cares for all my needs and thus, I can let my parents off the hook. :)

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    1. I agree, Harmony. If my mother--or even my father--were still with us, I would not have written about her father. But she was an only child and I have no relatives I can even name on her side of the family, so I felt at this point comfortable using her story to express the difficulty some have on Father's Day. Thanks for your comment and sharing!

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  2. Jean, as an adoptee I grew up believing my birth father abandoned me - not my family - just ME. (He had a 5 year old son at the time and my twin and me - but I was the only one adopted and they went on to have another child after). Then I met him through letters at the age of ten and finally in person when I traveled to S. Korea at the age of 18. I traveled alone and lived with my birthfamily for several months. I came to realize he was not my "DAD" But I learned his story and later realized that the Lord used my hurt in feeling abandoned along with the faith of my two fathers to lead me to find my ultimate identity in my Heavenly Father. Now I have memories of both my fathers singing Amazing Grace, each in their own language. Ironically, my own children have a father they do not know but a DADDY they adore. In response to your question about an earthly father in a book that made a difference in a character - well, since you use the life story of Laura, I will use the story of Timothy from the Bible. I'm not sure if he was an orphan - I just don't ever recall a dad mentioned? I picked up on this very early in life. I always pictured Paul as that father figure to Timothy. And that is what I prayed for every mother's and father's day (and every day in between) for my children. So rather than Paul being the "holy" apostle, to me, he was hope and a reminder that God will care for my children.Ultimately, the theme of my life in upbringing as a child and now as a parent - is God does not forsake his children. And I pray now for those children who have yet to find security and comfort in His loving, eternal arms.

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  3. I remember writing from time to time about our (sister Jean Bloom and my) father, and perhaps the most precious thing he gave us is that he constantly pointed to our Heavenly father, and the good news that had so transformed and sustained Dad's life. The theme of one of my pieces was the difficulty in seeing one's earthly father as perfect and one's self as not measuring up. This led me to depend all the more upon a truly perfect Father, as Dad did.

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