Thursday, September 4, 2008

Missing Dad

I am missing my Dad today.

My Father died on May 12, 2008. How profound that sentence looks! But even more, how it feels.

2002 christmas dad

My mother and father divorced when I was 7 years old and I never knew him growing up. He never sent Christmas or birthday cards. He never called, he never came. I never had an opportunity to know him.

Don't get me wrong here. I had two, count 'em two GREAT stepfathers. Both of them died at relatively young ages (younger than I am now) and were great Dads to me. But I think I always wondered what it would have been like if I had my real Dad in my life somehow.

I never heard my Mother say one harsh word about him nor did she excuse his behavior, or lack thereof. I know now that she married my stepfathers to help provide security for us, to help give us a stable home life. I think she loved them, in her own way, but I know she never stopped loving my Father.

DSC00470 (Small)

When my second stepfather died, she made a bold move and went back to live her retirement years in the small town in Kentucky where she had made her home as a young woman, with my Dad. Evidently he had spent his life in a rural western Kentucky town with a woman he met after the divorce. To make a long story short, he showed up, they rekindled their relationship and he and my Mom remarried!

Not speaking for my two brothers, I had a lot of bitterness and hostility toward him. Not just for me, but for my Mom and my brothers and all the years without him. We had lived a life without him and it seemed that he just waltzed back in as if he had never left. After the hasty and secretive vows were exchanged, so did my Mother change. She adored him and put every want and whim of his at the forefront of her being. We (their children) all had lives of our own with young adult children and even grandchildren. I should have taken comfort in the knowledge that she would not have to live her senior years alone, but he was just so possessive of her and seemingly jealous of any time at all spent with any of us. He was not at all the man I thought he would be.

He never wanted to be around any of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren. When children were in the house he would turn into a surly, ugly man. Of course, eventually most of them didn't visit anymore, or if they did, it was not often and not pleasant. Upon reflection, it must have been his guilt and insecurity about his "place" in our family.

Twelve years ago or so, my husband left me and our life together. I became very ill and my father showed compassion toward me that I did not believe he possessed. He and Mom drove to Lexington (KY) where I lived at the time and sacrificed a lot to get me emotionally and physically back on my feet. I saw a different side of him and knew there had to be a man in there that I could be proud to call my Dad. My Mom had loved him since she was 16 years old.

Eventually life and a great job opportunity brought me to Hopkinsville, KY to live which is very near the small town my parents lived in. I know there was a divine plan involved in that offer. I had never even visited Hopkinsville and didn't know one person there.

We got to visit a lot more and I began to know him. Just a little. He was such a private man with private thoughts. And very different when we were alone. I found it strange that he couldn't share his deepest thoughts with me UNLESS we were alone. But that was okay. Eventually and over time (without his asking) I began to truly forgive him in my heart for all the hurt I placed on him. Heck, we all turned out okay !

About two years ago, my chain-smoking father was diagnosed with lung cancer. He endured radiation treatments but not chemo. He had no pain, but was thinner and more frail. His mind was as sharp as a razor and never dulled, even to the very end.

Eventually he had to receive nursing home care and was taken to the Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson, Kentucky. What a GREAT place to be cared for! It is the finest facility of its kind that I have ever even visited. My Mother drove the 20 miles each way every day to see him, every day. She was unfailing in her devotion. I went at least once a week, more if I made the time. It was those evening visits alone with him that I came to know the MAN.

He lived long enough to tell me he was proud of me and what I had done with my life. He told me he was sorry for not being a part of it, but that he had lost as much as I had. More than anything else, he came to know Jesus Christ in that nursing home and was baptized a year before he left. I am so thankful for the time I shared with him. Thankful that I am a Christian and we were able to love each other deeply.

He was still a "weird guy" with strange ways. But we settled it all. And for that I am grateful, so grateful. I am so sorry we didn't have time to get there and be with him when he died, I know it would have meant a LOT to my Mom. The nurses assured us that he was not in pain. He just slowly stopped breathing. I like to envision that he just stepped over into the other side and through the gates of heaven.

I am missing my Dad today.

1 comment:

Bunny Cates said...

great big {{HUGS}} from your most favortist of neices. Yes, that would be ME.