My father passed on yesterday after more than a ten-year battle with Parkinson disease.
He was an industrious man, always building, fixing, or creating something, but Parkinson’s took away his ability to use his hands, and eventually his ability to move freely. He was always independent and proud, but his illness robbed him of both his independence and his pride.
My memories of him are disjointed and scattered. He was a hard worker, sometimes working two jobs to provide for my mother, four sisters, and me. He instilled within us all a good work ethic. And while he had never attended university, he had insight and knowledge in many areas of life. I think that my love for gardening and general interest in nature was inspired by him.
But we never had a close father/son relationship. Sadly, I do not remember much of my childhood, thus my memories of him are limited to what my family members recall. And what I remember most from my teenage years was that I feared him and his short temper and because of that I continually distanced myself.
I believed he tried early in my teenage years to build some sort of relationship with me by taking me with him mow lawns at a distribution center were he was employed. But generally the car ride there and back was silent except for the radio playing Johnny Cash and other “real” country western music he loved so much.
I was then, and still am an emotional and empathetic person, and I do not think that he understood how to relate to a son who would prefer to read a book and plant flowers rather than fix a car and build a walkway. My sensitivity, lead to much abuse in school by peers. There were times I would come home and go into my room and cry myself to sleep, hurting from the verbal wounds inflicted by classmates, but I never told him any of that. I assumed that he would not understand or even care.
I never felt as if I could live up to his expectations, although I didn’t really know what those expectations were because we never communicated. In all my life, I don’t ever remember him saying he was proud of me, or that he loved me. I am sure that he did, and more than likely he expressed that love in his “doing things” for his family.. But for a son that had already been made to feel worthless, stupid and irrelevant by his peers, acceptance and encouragement from my father perhaps would have lessened the pain of those days.
Somewhere in my late 20’s, early 30’s I was moved to write him a letter, asking forgiveness for how I may have sabotaged our relationship and forgiving him for the hurts I had felt from him. It was my attempt to clear the air and start anew. A week or so after sending it, my mother called and said that he was touched by what I wrote, but I wanted him to tell me, and he didn’t. So while I had released any animosity and unforgiveness our relationship did not move forward as I had hoped.
In the years that followed, he would come to the house when there was something to be fixed and he would fix it. No matter what it was, he would be there to take care of it. His wealth of practical knowledge about how things worked and how to fix them was amazing.
But we never really talked. Our conversations were strained best, covering the weather, gardening, or instruction on how to do painting, plumbing and other household repair and after a few minutes we ran out of things to say. We never even talked about religion, politics, or the social issues of the day,and feelings and emotions were taboo.
Unfortunately, the time to get to know each other has past. We both failed to get over the discomfort of each other. We both failed to appreciate and love each other as we were. I regret now the lost years of avoidance, the missed opportunities to say “I love you”.
Many people have expressed how much my father meant to them, how giving and caring he was, what a great man he was.
I mourn today, mourn that I did not know nor get to know that man.
16 thoughts on “My Father…”
I am truly moved by your eloquence, candidness and ability to describe a man that was your father. Thank you Mark.
Thank you too Rich.
Life is so messy. So many relationships end without fully being healed or without full closure. and we are left with regrets, pains, unfulfilled dreams.
I am sorry this has been the case with your father.
May God grant you the grace to look back and accept the small things your dad did as offerings of grace. May God grant you the grace to accept what you did to mend and build the relationship as enough. You have been faithful.
May God give you the peace to accept the unchangeableness of that relationship now. May God bring healing in you and through you.
Life is so messy. I don’t think the goal of life is to end squeaky clean. I think we find our wholeness and peace in Christ but we bear the scars and the stains of the messiness of relationships. I don’t think we are called to avoid that. You are not a mess but you bear the scars of the messes you have gone through. It is evidence you have poured yourself into others–like Christ has called you to. Well done, faithful servant of Christ.
Thank you my friend.
Mark, as always your writing amazes me. I knew a different father than you. You nailed his personality on the head, he showed he love by doing and by being there when you needed help. I do know he was pround of you, your gardening ability and the fact that you are a wonderful father. He always spoke highly of you when anyone asked, I too wish he would have told you himself. Love you.
thanks for the encouragement, and the love. love you too.
Mark, Thankyou for your writings and honesty.
In my life, I have also experienced people who put me down, laugh and ridicule -even now, years later, I still feel really self-conscious about how I look and speak.
I am sure Jesus had these experiences too, and knows exactly how we hurt.
Reading your story, I sense the love that you want to share with your Father and, despite everything , feel certain your Dad wanted to return that love.
Be at peace with yourself, and in the quietness, find a moment just to say all you wished to tell your Dad, but could never do before ..write a letter if it is easier,, then shred it.
It is never too late to share love – for, even in the unknown realms of the life after -you only have to reach out, say that persons name and they are in your heart.
Your Dad thought much more of you than you can ever realise -speak to him from your heart and peace will come flooding in and love returned a thousand times.
Take care in the days ahead, and just trust, all will be well
your words of kindness are comforting to me, my friend. thank you
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your relationship with your father so eloquently. My father passed away 21 years ago, and I was just thinking about him this morning as I was writing my blog. We were never very close, either, and I wish I had been able to have a closer relationship with him, too. Sometimes, it just can’t be the way we want. But, we can still be thankful for what we had, and for what we tried to do. Peace be with you, Mark.
thank you for your kind words.
Thank you for sharing such real emotion. I mourn for the loss that you related to us so well.
I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Thank you for these honest and articulate memories of your father and your relationship with him. Sending warm thoughts and hope for peace your way.
thank you for your words.
Mark, I’m so sorry for your loss. I really appreciate the way you honored your father in this post while not minimizing the very real struggles in your relationship. It’s truly a gift the way you expressed it. It made me want to meet your Dad and at the same time feel your disappointment that you didn’t have a closer relationship. Praying for you as your go through this difficult time.
Thank you for your kind response.