Tag: Fathers Day

Who ever knew these holidays, the ones to honor our mothers and fathers, could be the toughest of all. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for “The Dad Who Has Everything…..including a drug addiction and jail time.” Or, “Thank you mom, the best thing you could have done was put me in the foster home. I’ll always remember you for that.”

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Walking through the church doors the greeter would ask, red or white? The red carnation pinned to your lapel or dress (in the days when we wore ‘church clothes’) signified your mom was still living and the white, that she’d passed on. The moms would be asked to stand and little prizes given to the one with the most children with her in church that day. Sometimes the oldest would be recognized for her stalwart faith in raising generations.

Times changed and we don’t do that anymore. We try to be sensitive to the women who want nothing more than being a mom but can’t or are still waiting. So many reasons people can feel excluded so I suppose we just celebrate women and that’s good. Dads have never gotten the fanfare of mothers so maybe there’s not as much change there.

When we go through the calendar in our Rehabilitation Center, there are so many joys to share with these men throughout the year. Advent and the Lenten season are particularly special as some are new to the spiritual side of these holidays typically called Christmas and Easter. But I dread Mother’s and Father’s Day.

We stumble our way through these days, learning to follow their lead. They’ve seen our family, heard our stories of childhood and seen the pictures. We don’t hide our celebration of good but imperfect families and homes. They celebrate with us. And we hurt with those who ache from the dad who was never there or the mom who did put her sons in a foster home.

Before chapel, M, leaned over and told me his son had unfriended him on Facebook. This boy he loves and has been half way around the world to see, is hurt, angry, over his father’s relapse. M knows this. “It is what it is”, he says. And it’s the deepest kind of pain, I think.

A daughter messaged me asking if we’d heard from her dad. She was planning to visit him. Bring his grandson to see him for the first time. But his regular calls had stopped. Again.

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J gave the welcome and this 20-something young man celebrating over a year of sobriety told us he hadn’t had a good relationship with his dad. His dad is still in addiction. “But I’ve forgiven him and I’ll call him today and tell him I love him.”

Grace? Amazing grace!

And so another and another stood during our time of sharing and thanked a God who has brought them to this place of healing, of restoring families, and making all things new. My eyes water while my spirit soars knowing God is always a God of love and grace and healing. He will make all things new.

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Linking up with Kate, the gracious host of Five-Minute Friday. Stop over and share your voice.

This is about daddy. Because it’s time and I should think of him more often.

An outgoing prankster filled with charm, I imagine daddy swept mama off her feet as they married when she was but 16. He was already an officer in the Salvation Army and had to resign his commission to marry her. My aunt recently told me she’d been ask to talk him out of it but his mind was made up.

When they married, he joined the U.S. Army and served the minimum with them. Mama attended the Salvation Army training college and daddy was reaccepted as an officer. They served together in several appointments, even opening the Army’s work in two cities in Arkansas.

Stories of his childhood would spill out of him when we got together with his siblings or parents. Disagreements would likely happen about the version being told but laughter was the end result.

My love of music and photography were passed down from daddy. He had more musical talent than the rest of us, being very accomplished at the trombone and playing accordion. He could play piano by ear enough to pick out chords when needed.

Daddy moved fast. He coached church ball teams, took church youth groups on outings, picked up donations, opened thrift stores to help support the local work and handled business of the local units he directed. He preached on Sunday, sometimes also leading the songs as he played the accordion.

He let us listen to the radio of our choice at breakfast and in the car. He whistled. Often.

I scared him to death as I got older. I should have stayed with mom. He didn’t know how to raise a teenage girl and did it out of fear. Strict curfews and questions made me feel guilty of things not done. Dances weren’t allowed and being late 5 minutes once resulted in a scene I’ll never forget.

I learned early daddy wasn’t perfect. I never doubted he loved me. Never.

Performing my brother’s wedding ceremony

Well into his 50’s he called one day to ask my forgiveness. He was tearful. I was uncomfortable. I’m not sure what, specifically, he wanted forgiveness for. I don’t think I handled it well. He knew I loved him. I’m sure of it.

His last few years were sad. Poor health from diabetes brought an early retirement and he could never handle that mentally. He was depressed, trapped physically. He died at 63. It was unexpected even though he’d had problems. There was a relief of sorts. A relief knowing all of his sorrow was gone.

I marvel at how much my brother seems to know about him that I don’t. Last week Paul talked about daddy liking baseball. A sport I never remember him watching. I’ve already forgotten the team Paul said he liked. Boys and their dads. It’s different. Mama was right. Paul needed to live with dad after their divorce. Mama was mostly right. Daddy told me that. He told me he couldn’t handle that she was so often right. Big for him to admit to that. Sad he couldn’t live with it. Fear had its grip.

Father’s Day. Not the same attention as Mother’s Day. There won’t be as many cards sold or phone calls made. I was blessed. My parents weren’t good at marriage but they could have written a book on how to behave after divorce. For that, I’m thankful. For his laughter, his loving me as best he could, him teaching me to drive, him loving Henry and him loving God. All of that and more I’m grateful to my heavenly Father.

Full disclosure: This was originally written three years ago but never published. It obviously took over 5 minutes to write but less than that to edit today. It fit today’s word prompt, fear, and it fits our recognition of Father’s Day this weekend. Thank you for your kind grace.

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People use to say I looked like him. Not something a daughter likes to hear, especially a teenaged daughter who’d rather be compared to, well, to a girl! We do share that ruddy complexion and my eyes are a little like his though they are brown like mama’s.

We have our similarities, some good and some I’d rather exchange for a smaller nose and clearer skin. It was music that was one of our first connections. Daddy loved it. But music, in those days, wasn’t all around everywhere. It wasn’t portable. You had to be more intentional about bringing it into your home. We had radio’s – in the car. If you were really fancy you might have a radio as part of your stereo system. The big boxy thing that had a television in one side and a record player/radio in the other. Yes, times were hard 😉

On Sunday mornings daddy was the conductor. Salvation Army band music would be on the stereo and he’d whirl around the house waving his arms in the air, hands dipping and bobbing as if conducting the band. I suspect this made it easer for him to wait for us to get ready for church because he loved this music.

Bill McFarland (dad) on left
Lt. Bill McFarland (dad) on left

Daddy had an ear for music, played the trombone as his primary instrument but could handle the accordion pretty well and could pluck out the melody and basic chords on the piano for a hymn song if pressed into service.

As we got older and car radios had FM stations, he’d let us choose the station to listen to riding to school. That was the best. Him listening to our music and sometimes whistling along.

These thoughts spilled over me again as I was listening to new arrangements to old songs. It’s a longtime tradition in The Salvation Army. I was listening to Send the Fire and I’m In His Hands, two of my favorite newer arrangements to Army standards. As I listened I thought, daddy would like this. Yes, he favored the brass bands, but he’d like the duet on I’m In His Hands with the old and new woven together. He’d like this I tell myself.

His last years were sad years but the comfort is in knowing he was, and now is, in his hands.

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The details are lost. I don’t remember when Saul first attended our church. I’m not sure who he came with. It wasn’t a parent. It could have been one of many children that attended every week without their parents. But I’ll never forget him. He had a simple way about him. He watched closely everything we did and shadowed my husband. When the doors opened, he was there.

He wanted to learn to play an instrument. We had brass band instruction offered at no cost and Saul joined. He wasn’t very good. We decided to send him to a three-week summer music conservatory. That would help. Three weeks of intensive daily practice would help get him over that hump. It didn’t.

When we went up at the end of the camp for the final concerts the instructors asked us to not send him back. They tried and he tried them!

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We didn’t know a lot of his life. There were three siblings in his family with him being the oldest. And different. He had a tender heart, this teenaged boy. And while all the other boys were showing their cool and playing basketball and learning to drive, Saul was in sobbing and saying words I’ll never forget: “He didn’t call me, Ms. It was my 16th birthday and he didn’t call!” The tears and words gushed out in anger and hurt and what do you say?

How do you tell this boy that God wants to be his father when the only father he’s known doesn’t call to wish him a happy birthday?

I took Saul to a camp with me in Texas. There would be a few hundred kids there from different states and we knew this would be a great opportunity for him. One morning the speaker talked about fathers. Absent fathers and bad fathers. He talked about real life and how it all isn’t perfect. Again, it’s Saul’s words I remember most, not the speakers.

I’d been sitting in my seat cringing and wondering what some of these young people were thinking. Knowing some were dealing with problems that would shock us. I see Saul get up and walk back to where I was sitting. He leaned down to me and said, “Major has been more of a dad to me that mine, Ms.”

I know that Saul, oh I know that. I know when we take you places and when we listen to you and when we include you and laugh with you and go to camps and outings and when the other boys at church support you, yes, yes, I know we’ve been your family. I didn’t need to say that to him. I just needed to give him a hug and nod. Yes, I know.

And if only it were that simple for everyone. To nod and hug away their sadness; the confusion and feelings of abandonment.

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Saul may have been limited in some ways but he knew what a good father should look like. He knew my husband was that good man. He shadowed a man who loved his own kids and took other’s kids into new worlds. He taught them bible stories filled with the action-adventure boys pay attention to. He went camping with them and corrected them. He sat in church with them, prayed with them. He cared for them.

And then we left. Transferred to another town, another church. We didn’t see Saul as much then. Maybe a few times at state-wide events. But he has called. Called us when we were in Memphis and what seemed like another world away. And called us since we’ve been back in Florida. Called Henry, actually. And we’ve seen him. Gotten on to him about not going to church as much as he should. When you love them you correct them right? Commended him on working a job and keeping that job. But I wonder…..if we’d stayed a little longer?

This man God gave me to be father to our children is that kind of father. The kind a 16-year-old boy whose own dad doesn’t call to say happy birthday wants to follow. The father whose son has plans to work together with one day. Dreams ahead and shared memories from what’s been. A father who has loved his daughter in the way she would know she is highly valued. And loves his granddaughter with found energy.

Above all, he is a father who has an intimate relationship with the Father. It is that Father, who directs his way and enables him to love with a father’s love. We can call Him Father because He loves us with an untamed and unfailing love.

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He’s not just a good dad. There’s more that goes with it. Like being a loving and caring son. A son who listens and says the hard things when he has too.

And a good brother. No, they don’t  talk to each other all the time or even email but you can tell when they’re together and the old stories start to come or the express concerns for their mother’s health and what actions need to be taken. They aren’t argumentative or selfish. They genuinely support one another and want the best for each other.

Henry is the kind of guy who people not even family choose to call “uncle” because he’s just that kind of guy. The kind who cares. He’s not perfect but you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer man with his quality of character.

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Walking with his mom when she was in better health.
with both of his siblings and our granddaughter
with both of his siblings and our granddaughter
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extended family here and the lovely bride who chose to call this man “uncle” Henry

We seemed so young when we had our babies but he was the guy who never held them like they were going to break. You can what kind of dad they are when they hold them up close and lay them on their chest and take naps together. When the gross stuff was no big deal to him and how he would make the pool a whirlpool going in circles often with one child on his back.

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Reading the sports page to our son. Raising a new generation of Dolphin fans.

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He’s the kind of dad that our grown son dreams of working in a business together some day. Apparently, our son also thinks his dad is tireless!

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our daughter

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Daddy-daughter dance at her wedding in 2004

He knew how to love a daughter in the way that she would love and respect herself and require that from others. He loved from his heart and faith and didn’t let fear rule him. He also shares that love with our granddaughter as she holds him captive to play princess with him. Oh, the fun they have because his love is selfless.

safe in his arms
safe in his arms
with son-in-law, son, granddaughter and daughter
with son-in-law, son, granddaughter and daughter

He’s a father who loved their mother first and set that example of respect. And before her he loved God and sets Him first in his life and that of his family. That’s a good dad. A dad who calls God Father and takes his cues from Him. He lives it, this man does. I am blessed. Our children are blessed.

 

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You know the way a person holds a baby and you can tell if they’re a natural? That was Henry. From the beginning. No fear. His baby.

That’s the tell for me. How one holds an infant. When they’re held out like an object of question or held with uncertain hands as if they could break any minute….not a natural. No everyone is. This isn’t about everyone. It’s about my kids dad. Henry. He’s a natural.

A natural at holding.

A natural at playing

With his extended family of “sons”

A natural at loving.

He believes when others don’t. He hopes for those who have lost hope. He sees a future some cannot.

Sharing his vision for the new property and new expansion.

He opens his heart to extend his family from the biological sense to a spiritual one. This is what God has called him to do and he answers that call. Only natural when it’s an extension of living faith. That’s the kind of dad Henry is.

 

 

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