Father’s Day Redeemed

This morning I wrote in honour of my husband, and the wonderful Daddy he is to our children. Now, while Tim is out with his two daughters for a few hours, I am thinking about my dad.

It has been almost ten years since Dad passed away suddenly, of a heart attack, at age 73. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, on a day like today, we remember as though it was yesterday. Even if Father’s Day was never really celebrated as a big deal, we remember.

For years, this day stirred in me so many emotions—mostly sad and pained—as I watched happy dads and daughters, or dads and sons, celebrating what fatherhood is and should be. Father’s Day sermons have always had a way of making me realize what I missed, what I longed for, and I often cried silent tears, hoping no one would notice.

When the ‘right things’ are celebrated and talked about all around us, the lack, for those of us who ‘missed out’, can be completely overwhelming and cause deep struggles. This is why I cannot write about the celebration, without being sensitive to those who are hurting. I know what it feels like.

This afternoon I want to focus on the good in my earthly dad, even though he was a very cruel and abusive man, for many years of his life. I left home the month before I turned sixteen, and never returned to live with my family again, other than for the short-term stays on several occasions between ages 17 and 19. Many of my memories are filled with fear but a few good memories stand out, and they impacted me powerfully.

I was about 13 years old, sitting at our dinner table doing homework, when Dad walked up behind me. He paused, looked over my shoulder, but said nothing for a time. I didn’t dare say anything, and tried to focus on the math questions in front of me as questions went through my mind. Why was he there? Was I doing something wrong? What did he want? What was he thinking? I squirmed. An audience was bad enough but looking over my shoulder, so that I could not see what he was thinking, was worse.

Focus! He’s watching!

At length he spoke. “You do very neat work. I’m happy to see that. Maybe someday, when you’re out of school you will be my secretary. I need someone to do my bookkeeping for me.” Dad went on to tell me that I should finish high school, something that was not common for girls in the Mennonite culture, and that I was highly intelligent.

My first ‘real job’ was working for a construction company, Country Lane Builders, as a secretary/bookkeeper. I loved that job! I had no experience and no training when I went for the interview but somehow I had confidence.

Months after I was hired, the owner met with me to discuss how it was going. At the meeting he told me that he hired me because I kept eye contact throughout the interview and, in spite of a lack of experience, I was confident. I have always believed that Dad’s faith in me influenced that moment.

As it was, I had dropped out of high school when I left home at fifteen, having only completed the ninth grade. I returned in my mid-thirties as a mom of five children ages 4 through 12, only three years after Dad passed away. I worked hard and  graduated with the Governor General’s Award for highest academic average in the graduating class, as well as the Valedictorian’s Award.

I thank my dad for the gift he gave me that day, in my early teens, when he told me he believed in me. That day he taught me to believe in myself, in spite of the negative that I learned through violence and abuse.

Later, as a mom to five young children, Dad again affirmed me, this time in my role as a mom.  I visited him in the hospital several times a week eighteen months before he passed away and, on one occasion, with tears in his eyes, he asked, “How did you do it? You gave your children so much that we never gave you.”

“Dad, I started out just like you. Angry. One day I lost my temper with Alicia, when she was two years old, and that day I asked my friends for help at a Bible Study. Someone told me that I should stop trying to be better than my parents, and start being the best mom I can be,” I said. “Dad, I forgave you and that changed everything.”

Dad and I spent a lot of time talking over the months of his illness. During that time he wept numerous times, grieving his years as a violent, angry man. He asked me to forgive him, and I assured him was forgiven, and had been for years.

One of my last conversations with Dad was when he called me, struggling to believe that God had forgiven him for all he had done and been. He needed to talk, to be reassured. That is the greatest honour I received from my dad, that he would trust me to speak into his life regarding the assurance of his salvation.

The pain has served its purpose in my life, and continues to. I thank Him for the good Dad brought into my life, and that He, as my Heavenly Papa, redeems all things.

© Trudy Metzger 2012