December 12, 2008

The sound of the word echoes more than itself. I have known many fathers, partly because my connection to a paternal figure is a collection of fragments. My biological father, I did not meet until I was in the tenth grade. I always knew that the man my mom married wasn’t my “father”; he was my “Dad.” My father and I, since tenth grade, have maintained an awkward relationship. I cannot imagine from his perspective what it must feel like, partly because he doesn’t open up to anyone… a tendency I recognize in myself and have improved, mostly due to her. I am his only biological child; I can’t begin to imagine not seeing Linen for 12 years. I remember that cumbersome hug and how I felt like I was in some sort of play. I just wanted to shoot hoop and ask questions. I really don’t feel like our relationship has grown much since. Sure we know each other and spend time together, but true growth, for what I call it, has not occurred.

My Dad, for whom I have held every emotion possible (good and bad), died in 2006. I remember the day he was saved. I remember the tears that he cried. I remember the shock in my mind and how I had prayed. I remember years later when he was taken to jail and I was called at work, informed that he was taken and that I needed to go get my little brother because he was waiting for him to take him fishing. I remember as a young child making his scotch and water when he got home from work. I remember him getting mad one day because the ice tasted like soap. I didn’t dry my hands well enough after I washed them to make his drink. I remember being picked up by the throat one night when he was drunk and how scared I was. More than any of this, I remember our talks and his genuineness. He was one of the smartest and most artistic men that I have ever known. He could paint, draw, write, create and imagine more than anyone I know. In many ways, I feel that he wasted his talents in life. I feel that he never reached his potential. I feel he was entangled by the snares of life early and often.

I know either of these men would do anything for me. Besides these, I have known two other paternal figures, my youth pastor who treated me as a son and a man that took my family into his home when we had no place to go. The man who took us in was a man’s man and he treated his family better than most that I have seen. He taught me how to drive a stick-shift in his silver-blue Nissan truck. He taught me how to drive a tractor and inadvertently, he showed me how to treat a family. My youth pastor was an excellent counselor and not because of his position. In fact, he had a real job and a good one. His concern and care for me was so deliberate. He and his wife drove down to visit me after she died. Their concern and care are just as deliberate today. I cannot imagine what the term father echoes in the minds of those that have been abandoned or much worse, the ones that stuck around to abuse them and their mothers.

I am now a father. I love Linen more than anything that I ever have. It’s a different kind of love than I have for Carla. Linen needs and cannot survive alone. That responsibility creates the difference. I am responsible for nurturing her, teaching her, providing for her, comforting her, correcting her, counseling her, creating autonomy and independence, showing her true love and helping her recognize the fake, and everything else that a daddy should be. I am responsible for all this alone. Not long after she was born, that cold snowy day in Fargo, I remember the feeling that I must know what it feels like for God to love me now. How could I have ever understood before Linen? I remember feeling comfort in that and having questions for my father. Since, I have thought about the parallels of a heavenly father and myself in different situations. Today, I was taking a shower and I had the monitor on. I had laid Linen down for a nap and she was extremely tired but was fighting it. I knew she needed to sleep and I knew that we were going to be out past her bedtime tonight. As I hurried through my shower, she cried and screamed in discontent on a few occasions. It hurt my heart to hear her cry out and not go in there. It made me think of my impression of God as a father and how my impression has been molded by my fathers and how I feel as a father. I ran in there to get her and pick her up. She laid her head down on my shoulder and I sang to her and rubbed her back. It made me think… maybe I’m not screaming loud enough for God to come in and hold me. I doubt He has his monitor turned off. What would it hurt for Him to comfort me? Is there something that I don’t know? When I hear Linen’s voice in the monitor in the morning, it delights me and gives me the only reason to get out of bed. Sometimes, she’ll say, “Daddy” and I break my neck to get in there and hold her.



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