A picture I saw on another blog site of a father congratulating his daughter on an award started me to reflecting on the question of what if we could choose our parents. What would be the criteria we would use to decide who would be the perfect fit each of us. It is downright intriguing for me, as I never truly had a father in my life. My mother was a single parent before it became recognized as a social problem, and in all of the homes that my sister and I lived in as children, not one of them had a man in it, so I have very few memories of a father.
I have only one childhood memory of my dad, and unfortunately, it is my first real memory. I have no idea how old I was, but I don’t think I had started school. In the memory, my sister and I are jumping on a bed, and my father is in the room but not really doing anything to stop us. Like all children, we are squealing with loud abandonment as we jump, higher and higher in the air, oblivious to the danger of falling and hurting ourselves. Daddy is smiling with us. I don’t remember him talking, just standing there looking at us.
Then, the doorbell rings, and as children, we had no idea that that moment would be the last joyous one for a long time. At the door were the men who came to evict us from our apartment, because my father had not paid the rent with the money that my mother gave him. My father, it would seem, was one of the original stay-at-home dads. As the men set the furniture on the porch, I didn’t hear my father talking to them, and I wondered why Daddy did not stop them. Daddies are meant to be heroes to their daughters, aren’t they?
My sister and I were so scared, because we did not understand what was happening. When the men finished emptying the apartment, they locked the door of the apartment, and because Daddy was nowhere to be found, they placed my sister and me on top of the furniture and left us there on the porch with no adult supervision. We started crying, as we were really scared, and the wonderful lady who lived next door came out of her home and took us into her apartment to wait on our mother to come home from work.
But before she took us in, I had glanced down the street and saw my Daddy walking away from the house. I am sure that I called his name, “Daddy! Daddy!? Where are you going?” But her never turned around. I would not see him again until I was twelve years old.
I remember him buying me one dress, I think. You see, the thing about memories is that sometimes we mix dreams with real memories, and cannot really tell the difference. So, you have to be careful. I do remember going to his house to ask him for money when I was maybe 15, and he was drunk and nearly asleep. I asked him for $5 money to take a trip with my best friend and her family. He gave me a five and told me to go to the store and get him $4.00 worth of bologna. This was in the 1960s when that was how you bought lunch meat. When I returned to his house, he was asleep, so I stole $20 from his pocket and had the time of my life.
Over the years, I only saw him on the street every once and a while, and every time he saw me, he promised to visit us, and, like a fool, I was always there waiting, believing that this time he really meant it. He never came. Fast-forward twenty years, and I get a call from a lady at the local hospital telling me that, as my father’s next of kin, I need to come get him out of the hospital and find him a place to stay and pay for his medications.
I thought to myself, “You have GOT to be kidding! This man never gave me anything, and you want ME to come and take care of him?” The poor lady did not know what to do, and I realized that this was not the time to “go off” on an innocent bystander. She told me that the doctors could do no more for him, so he was being released. When I arrived at the hospital I found out that he had throat cancer. He could not talk. I was devastated, because I so wanted to hear my Daddy tell me that he loved me and that he was sorry for all the missed appointments, but it was too late for talking.
He died six months later. At his funeral, I did not cry, and people kept saying inane things to me because I was not crying, telling me not to hold back the tears or that I did not need to act strong. What they failed to understand was that just because a man provides the genetic material for your birth, that does not make him a father. I was biologically related to him, as evidenced by the fact that I looked like him and walked like him, but I had no emotional ties to him.
I could not cry for the stranger in the casket, for he was not anywhere near who I would have chosen for my father, if I had been allowed a say in the choice. But, the irony is, I loved him! I have had to forgive and let go of the hurt so I could function in this life, realizing that, for whatever reason, he simply did not know how to parent.
From the few episodes I had with my father, and from the countless numbers of fathers in the books I hungrily read and the television shows I watched as my salvation in childhood, the criteria for me for the kind of father who would fit me would include the capacity to love me with all my faults, courage, compassion, someone who laughs at life, strong arms to hold you and keep you safe, and someone who is honest, even when I do not want to hear the truth. These are not the characteristics of my biological father, so thank goodness, they are the traits of my heavenly Father.
In Exodus 34:6, God relates His traits to Moses: compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. In Psalms 2, 37, and 59, I learned that God laughs, which makes sense, for we are made in His image, and one of the most sought after characteristics for a mate, male or female, is a sense of humor (I just cannot stop being a sociologist). I think a father who can laugh at us but still love us is pretty amazing! And in Psalm 89:13, it states, “Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.” To know that His strong arms carry me in times of trouble and hold me when I am sorrowful means that He is the perfect Father.
Yes, there are some great human fathers. I witness them a lot, and the post of the blogger telling us of his pride in his daughter as Writer of the Month convinces me that there are men who meet my criteria, and I envy their children. Also, I watch my husband with his children from his first marriage and witness his love for them and pride in them. It is so lovely to watch. It is one of the reasons that I married him, for I saw his easy and frequent laughter with his children as a sign of a man who understands how to love, and his being there for them when they call is utterly fascinating to see. He is a real father.
So, tell me, what would be your criteria for a father who fits you? Have you ever thought about it, or are you blessed to have a great father? If so, tell me about him.