Maybe it was his upbringing. His alcoholic dad. His parent’s divorce. Maybe it was WWII. Maybe it was the so-called friend who sold his cabinet shop while he was fighting the war. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever it was, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure it all out. Like: why did he just sit and stare? What was he thinking about? What did he see?
He was a good man. Didn’t drink. Didn’t cuss. Didn’t scream and yell and never, ever lost his cool. He was gentle and quiet and patient and sometimes extremely funny. Yet, I was afraid of him. Afraid of doing something wrong. Afraid of his scornful frown. Afraid of making too much noise, of asking too many questions, of sitting on his lap and hugging his neck. Afraid of his cold, stark, overpowering, confusing, excessive silence.
I concluded that my dad didn’t love me; that I was stupid and ugly. So, to protect my sensitive, fragile emotions, I decided that I didn’t need him and gradually built a wall between us. By the time I became a teen, I terribly resented and rebelled against my dad. That, along with my dad’s laziness about working a regular job, my mother working three jobs and flying off the handle every other day, our house became a war zone.
Sadly, between the wall I built, and my misguided conclusions, I blamed our shattered, dysfunctional lives all on my dad.
If I had the chance to do it over again, I would sit on his lap, hug his neck and tell him how much I love him. I would understand that the war shattered his soul and that silence was his haven. I would encourage him to talk to me, to share his thoughts with me, and tell me what he’s feeling. I’d see my dad as a pillar of strength instead of the weakling I made him out to be. I would hold his hand and tell him how proud I am of him and that I love him just the way he is.
Through years of counseling and healing I now realize that not everyone is capable of loving us the way we want to be loved. Not everyone can meet all our needs. We are all human, and we are all a product of the environment in which we were raised. We all have a responsibility to work through our troubling pasts.
I thank God for opening my eyes, for healing my shattered heart, and helping me to forgive and move on with my life. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).