The Father I Never Knew But Always Loved
There are no photographs of my father, but in my mind he stands tall, light brown and handsome. There are no tape recordings of his voice, but I admire his intelligent and humorous speech. Thanks to the positive mental portraits my family members helped me paint.
He Stands Tall
Perhaps the greater impact on a child’s attitude and behavior is the child’s love and respect for the father rather than the father’s presence or absence. This is not a suggestion to create fanciful, heroic tales about deadbeat dads, but an appeal to consider the child’s need to respect fatherhood.
We all know the family in which the father’s presence hardly makes a difference. Eventually, it’s what the children think about him that makes them decide whether or not they want a relationship with him. Except in the unfortunate situation where a child was conceived by an unknown rapist, the child deserves to hear something positive about the father.
The statistics presented by SPARC suggest (among other situations) that children from fatherless homes are:
20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
9 times more likely to drop out of school
20 times more likely to end up in prison
Is it possible that there could be some damage control if the children were taught to forgive their fathers and to love and respect them for whatever measure of good there was in them?
Love and Respect Are Necessary
My father died in a motor vehicle accident in his early twenties. As an adult, I was privileged to meet the pastor who presided at my father’s funeral. The pastor seemed happy to meet his friend’s baby all grown up, and he told me only positive things about the deceased. However, years earlier when he comforted my father’s siblings, he told them that my father had a certain character weakness that might have ruined his life had he lived longer.
The pastor’s opinion may or may not be true. It doesn’t matter. My father’s family took comfort in the thought that death might have relieved him from self-destruction. By the time they explained it to me, my pride in having him for a father was already established. My compassion and forgiveness overpowered any negative feeling which might have surfaced had I not already developed love and respect for him.
Knowledge of my father's imperfection reminds me to add some humanity to the image in my mind; and it doesn't prevent me from dwelling on the life-enriching treasures that he left me.
Below are four of his valuable lifetime gifts to me.
(1) Family Support
My father's siblings supplemented my mother’s efforts to meet my needs. I looked forward to spending time with them. My cousins satisfied my need for siblings. When my aunts migrated to foreign countries, I received countless packages. They sent me foreign currency all through my high school years.
On her eightieth birthday, his only remaining sister invited me to cruise the Caribbean with her, her children and grandchildren. Talk about a sense of family, of love, of belonging! I credit my father for a lifetime of love.
Caribbean Family Cruise
(2) Funny Stories
Among the stories my grandmother told was the one about her attempts to discipline my father. She was utterly afraid of having her feet get wet in her shoes. He would always position himself near a bucket of water or have a tumbler in his hand when she got ready to spank him. He delayed many a spanking (back in the day when it was acceptable) by distracting her that way.
“Let me see if you’re as smart as your father,” the village postman used to tell me, and I’d have to come up with a joke. I think he laughed not because I was funny, but because he was thinking of my father.
(3) Fruit of His Kindness
My first job after college, was teaching school on a Caribbean island – other than my native island. One of the school board members was exceptionally kind to me. Among other things, he supplied me regularly with local fruits and vegetables..
During the last week of my two-year assignment, he told me the story of his friendship with a young man from my island who shared the same last name as mine. The man had been very hospitable to him when he vacationed on the island, and he had promised to return the kindness, but the man died.
“But you did fulfill your promise to him,” I told him, “by the kindness you showed to his daughter.”
“I could never live with myself,” the man told me, “if I had treated you any differently.”
Providence had arranged for me to reap the fruit of my father’s kindness.
My Dad Would Be Proud Of Me
My father’s loyalty to his religious conviction is mentioned in the book written to commemorate his church’s fiftieth anniversary.
He refused to work on the Bible Sabbath after he learned that God expected him to spend the day in worship. My father had made an impact on his peers and fellow workers when his faith was tested in his youth.
His loyalty to the faith he embraced is his legacy to me. He left me some direction for my spirituality.
So on Father’s Day when the congregation sings:
“Faith of Our Fathers living still,”
I sing about the faith of my father.
Family members can effectively influence the children’s attitude by telling positive stories about the father. To tear him down is to feed them hostility and tear down their self-worth. To teach love and respect for him is to teach love and respect for themselves - and for the life he helped to give them.
© 2011 Dora Isaac Weithers
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