Today is my Dad's birthday, so I thought I'd go back a bit and reflect on what it has meant to be his son. Here's a revealing photo: Father and son together on graduation day. If you look beyond the perms and the ugly orange decor (sorry it's the 70's here), you'll notice one of us is smiling and the other is not. So typical of what is was like in my home.
My smile was forced. I didn't like him anymore than he liked me, but we had to take this picture to commemorate the event. It'd be easy to chalk it all up to the choices he made a la Harry Chapin's awful Cat's in the Cradle. Or even Cat Stevens' less grating but still piercing Father and Son. But the truth is always more complex than a simple song will describe.
My poor Dad lost his dad at age 13, certainly the wrong time in a young man's life to face such a painful event. His Mom went back to work, leaving he and his younger sister to grieve while she did the best she could providing for the family. Thankfully, a kind and wonderful uncle stepped in and loved on them in place of their father. But of course, it wasn't enough.
Discovering a time of intimacy with my young mother of 16 - and he was barely 18- resulted in me, an unplanned pregnancy, this threw the family in turmoil. Being raised strict Catholic and also due to the fortunate fact that abortions were not that easy to come by, my mother never chose to abort or run away or be sent away as sometimes was the case. I survived and my parents, young but deeply in love, married shortly before my birth.
All this put my Dad in a difficult place. But he pushed on to provide for his new family. Hard work and success were the ticket of the day- and after many, many years of struggling, working multiple jobs at the same time, and very big lifestyle changes (such as moving to California), my dad finally hit pay dirt around the time I was a Junior in High School. They entered a season of prosperity but the cost was high: He had minimal relationship with me and only slightly more with my sister.
However- as bad of a dad as he was in many ways, he was an excellent husband. It took time for me to see this, and I eventually noticed, learning what it meant to be one. In the larger picture, this served me very well!
My Mom and Dad. Still married
and still in love after 6 decades together.
At the age of 39, he watched his 19 year old son place his faith in Jesus Christ. The changes in my life were so profound, hope and joy replaced depression, that he soon found himself making the same decision weeks later. His life totally changed as well. From that point on, it was a fresh beginning for both of us! I started to see him and how he lived in an entirely different way. (And I finally understood sacrifice for the sake of your family.) It took time, but now I am happy to say we have a great friendship as two men who love and support each other. Who would have guessed?
So, Happy Birthday Dad! I love you so much and have so much respect for you! And I thank God for allowing you to be my father and my friend.