It's been hard these last few years since my Daddy passed away. It's no problem to fix the date that he left this world for the next, but it's hard for me to know when he really left us. We realized it only after the funeral. After I preached a eulogy for my father from the point of view of a sharecropper's son.
It was clear two days later when the certified copy of your Last Will and Testament showed up. The one that never mentioned me, my brother, or those grandsons you seemed to love so much. Before that, we were coping with the loss of a man we had known all our lives as Daddy.
One thing I've realized over the past few days as I thought about this, is that apparently some people, and I guess I'm one of them, tend to gloss over our parent's shortcomings and exalt those things that make us feel better about them.
There were moments I remember about him that I used to put on the good side that after further thought realize that they actually weren't. They were examples of times when he put his preferences over his family. He'd withdraw if he didn't get his way. Even the fact I had lauded - he worked over 20 years on the swing shift at the base, supposedly to get the extra money - was his way of avoiding having to be home with his wife and his boys everyday.
It was my Mother who played catch with us on long summer evenings - my Mother who showed up at Little League games. I can't remember one time my father did, even on Saturdays. He was always busy working on the land, fixing a tractor, or felling trees. It was a shock to look back and realize that.
Late in life he married again. He was lonely, no doubt of that, and somehow he met a woman who it turned out had been married and widowed several times. She called him honey and sugar, and fed his ego. They went on trips together - something my Mother had begged him to do but he never would. I guess she worked on his weaknesses and exposed him as less than the man I thought I knew.
At first it seemed like she'd be good for him, and in some ways there's no doubt that they both benefited. She was a severe diabetic and he was suffering from ailments too. But over the last years of his life I guess she took advantage of that weakness. Well, I know she did. The day he signed over his savings, he had just finished chemo.
I know he was weak. I know he was tired. I know she was evil. I just don't know how to balance the man I knew who loved his family with the one who turned his back on it at the end. Everything I knew of him - the Father, the Grandfather my boys loved so dearly - was shattered.
Father's Day is different now.
I focus my thoughts on the now and future - my awesome sons, of whom I am so proud, and my grandson, who makes me smile just thinking of him.
There's a wound that only God's grace will heal when it comes to my Father. I love him and have been trying for years to see total forgiveness happen. We'll meet in heaven one day and I guess then I'll understand.