As the world celebrates Father’s Day, my mind also remembers a father that I barely knew. I wrote the following words on Father’s Day in 1984, and the same thoughts are as vivid today. I urge you all, if your Father (or Mother) is still living, to find out who they “really are.” Dig beneath the surface things to their hearts, their fears, the history of their souls, not just the visible life you witness. I wish mine had lived long enough, for me to be wise enough, to understand the things that really matter in this short lifetime journey of our souls.
“It’s Father’s Day, and I sit weeping for the Father I never really knew. Oh, he lived in the house I did, he went to work and provided the basic things we needed and spent long periods in the Veteran’s hospital during the early 1940’s. He played with me, and I watched him read the newspaper, play cards, work on his old car, listen to the radio, and serve communion in church on Sunday Mornings. I know he loved sweets, a bedtime snack, and that he poured coffee in his saucer and then drank it. I know his dad died of cancer of the eye when my father was only six years old, his mother died when he was a young teenager, and he moved between the homes of his two older sisters until he reached young adulthood. I know he ran away from his sister’s once to join the circus, and eventually joined the army during WWI. He spent his early adulthood in Siberia.
“I know he had his leg amputated in the early 1940’s when I was small, and had a heart attack and almost died during the many long months of hospitalization. I heard him and his oldest sister, my aunt Earle, argue over insignificant dates, names, and places. But I never knew how he felt about any of these events in his life. I don’t know if he felt scared when his parents left him an orphan at such a tender age. I don’t know what his unfinished hopes or dreams were, or even if he dared to dream and hope. I have little idea how he felt about his life. I only know what his actions were and a little history which was related to me by my mother.
I have no idea how he felt about losing a limb or adjusting to not being able to financially provide for his family. I only saw him cry once. That was a morning in 1947 when my mother walked out the door to find a job. We desperately needed money for food and utilities, and she, with only a 4th grade education, went to work in the laundry steam room of a local orphanage. In that brief glimpse in my 13th year, I witnessed how his pride suffered in that moment, but no one ever talked about it. It was the only chink I ever saw in his armor.
When I was 16, my father died in my arms while suffering from a hear attack. I don’t know if he had ever thought about death, but I know that in that moment, I lost all opportunity of ever Really knowing him.“ (Excerpt from a previously self-published book: “Over the Miles of My Mind.” 1996)