Sunday, August 14, 2005

Farewell, again.

Robert R. ByrdI want to introduce you to someone. This is my Dad. Actually this is his class picture from when he was at the University of North Carolina. I am not sure of the year this picture was taken, but I am sure of one thing. He died 10 years ago today.

It seems kind of strange to reach this anniversary. The last time I saw him I knew I would never see him again. We met for a couple of days in 1994 in Petersburg, Virginia, and had that talk that I think all fathers and sons have to have. The one where sons realize they have some things to say to their father, and they need to say them fast because the old man's clock is ticking. Actually, when I last saw him my dad was 64. He died one year later.

Not too much was written about him in his obituary -- that he was a director of child services at Sandhills Mental Health Center, that he had worked with the Richmond County, North Carolina School system. That he was survived by a wife -- Amy -- not my mom, but my mom was dead seven years before my dad -- as well as a daughter -- Anna whom I have never met and three sons -- my brother Bob, who lives in Salem, MA, my half brother Ross -- whom I have never met -- and me. And that was it. Some blah, blah about funeral arrangements.

But I didn't want to let this day go by without saying something about my Dad. Was he perfect? No way. Was he a good father? He tried to be; he failed often, but he didn't have much to work with.

You see, my dad passed on to my brother and I what he had experienced -- a deep wound that his father had given him. John Eldredge in Wild At Heart says every boy gets one from his father. And we do. And that's because our dads, try as they might, are not able to meet all our needs. They have needs of their own, and they might or might not have a relationship with the One who can heal us all. My dad's particular wound was abandonment. My grandfather was good at running away apparently. He did it a couple of times and left my dad to fend for himself.

And that's kind of what my dad did to me. He told my mom when I was about 11 that when I turned 18 he was leaving her. I didn't know enough to know that he was leaving her because they had a bad marriage. It was only after our last talk that I found out the reasons why. I won't bore you with the details; suffice it to say Mom had wounds of her own she never dealt with.

But was he a bad father? No. He did the best he could. What's really kind of freaky is that when I look in the mirror now when I shave, I see him. I see his hands when I type. I see his feet when I sit on the couch and watch TV. And I figured out that he was my age when he told my mom he was going to leave. And eventually that's what he did.

I have never met the children he had with his second wife. She asked me not to come to his memorial service because it might bother them. I guess that was because my brother's visit to their home wasn't the greatest. But I am not my brother.

And now I have a new Father -- One Who will never leave me and one who has promised to take me to His house when it's my turn to leave this place. I hope to see my Dad there. I don't know what his final thoughts were. He died of liver problems brought on by medicine he took for Rheumatoid Arthritis. It eventually caused the veins in his throat to rupture and he bled to death. I had tried on a couple of occasions to talk to him about God, and about my faith. He didn't want to hear it. I hope he listened at the last.


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carol t. said...

Your words make me think of our Father as the ultimate healer. Our wounds have been bound and healed by the Father who will never leave us alone, as you said. But I guess sometimes the scars remain, and we can look on those and remember where we were without Him. You honor your father by remembering him this day, not assigning blame, but acknowledging his humanity.