Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fathers—in Life, in Books

For Father's Day, I'm re-posting a piece from 2014. I hope it will be meaningful for you.
Anne and Matthew

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.

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 NIV)

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