It wasn’t the father
who was a long way off,
but these days it seems so.
It’s as though the sons
wandered off in search
of the father.
Prodigals go and come
from either end,
then end up wondering
in the in-betweens.
I thought it was just me,
yet, ain’t nobody perfect.
Come to think of it,
we all need to know
how to stay, not stray.
The gig is up, and
honesty has us squinting,
longing has us looking.
The father figure
has us striving to
figure out who he is,
who we are.
I heard my dad…
“I know what you mean.”
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him,
and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
Saturday June 3rd 2000
Last weekend I realized I hadn’t been to see Dad’s marker since the graveside service. So I called my three brothers and asked them to meet me there at sunrise on Memorial Day to remember Dad. I got there early to have some time to reflect and lay some flowers down. The funny thing was that it took me ten minutes to find his spot…to find him. Then when I did tears came like a dike had just burst. I hadn’t expected that. “It was just like when he was alive…I had to go looking for him,” I whispered. Then the translation to my spiritual life was more understandable. Issues of my doubting God came to surface. Lies were uttered, “You have to go looking for God all the time too. He even tells you to do it like some cosmic game of hide and seek. When does He ever come looking for you? (Believe me, I’ve found some pretty good spots to hide.) It seems God’s still at the tree, arms crossed, counting to infinity as only He can.” Then truth chimed in with Psalm 139 and other scant passages I stored for the Spirit to recall. Not to mention the sun that was starting its daily journey. The smell was fresh of the flowers and the colors that brushed my senses. Then my brothers showed up. We talked, cried, and I read some journal entries from around the time of Dad’s death and then read “his” poem. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer and then I thanked the boys for joining me in my therapy session.
There are some arms of Christendom today that are promoting a gender neutral Bible. Technically God is gender neutral. Maybe a better way of putting it is bi-gender. God encompasses femininity and masculinity, He created us male and female after all and we are God’s image. But for me personally, I need God to be my father. I need to know that God can pursue and protect and be strong in a “man” way sometimes. Forgive me please, ladies. I need my Dad. I need my Abba. I figure I need a father maybe because of the absence of my own.
P.S. “Dad, I know you’re story, and I am thankful for you and know the struggles you had. Can’t wait to see you again.”
My dad was like a father to me.
He took me with him to fix my Godmother Ginny’s air conditioner at the Ceramic Shop. He showed me his humble quarters at the Burdick Hotel. I followed him around while he repaired fridges and jammed locks. I recall watching Dad play horse shoes by the tracks at the fire station. He wore blue pants most of the time.
I remember the sound of the tires on a gravel road as we delivered his Free Press route before sun up. That’s when I asked him what his biggest regret was. “I wish I hadn’t got so angry at your mother.” Me too Dad.
I was nine when the benign tumor stole one eye, half of his smile, fifty percent of his hearing. An unsteady swagger followed. I had no clue how scared he was when he went to the Mayo Clinic. That was the end of his fireman days but thankfully not all his days.
He came back with his wry humor intact and a comb-over that was beyond justifiable. I imagined him using the paste brush from Sister Jean’s second grade room to adhere the peninsula across the bay of his baldness. Even on his deathbed he parted his hair to the side. His one hair. Parting was such sweet sorrow.
I don’t remember which of my nine siblings it was. The one who caught Dad at a supreme moment displaying all his quirks plus one. He was working in his yard on a blistering summer day. Bent over weeding or what not in his blue pants most likely. They came up behind him with their announcing hello. He turned while rising off balance, his comb-over dangling off the wrong side of his crown. His usual response was half shouted “Heh?” His “Heh?” accompanied a half smile with his permanent wink and two Kleenex hanging out of his nose. One for each nostril. We laugh every time one of us draws the scene up from our memories.
Yes, Dad was like a father to me. Not perfect.
A few years ago I had an epiphany, maybe a vision, could have been a dream. No matter. I was a kid playing Lego’s on the wool area rug in our living room. Dad was on the opposite end reading a newspaper and listing to classical music. The scene had a Sunday feel to it. Quiet. For no particular reason to my mind, Dad folded the paper and set it down. He got up and came across the room and got on the floor next to me and played Legos with me. He came over with his comb over. His lock of hair unlocked and flopped over and he didn’t even notice as we interlocked the Legos and our quiet hearts together.
Photo by Jessica Szopinski
Often a father’s calling is to stay put and be strong.