There aren’t too many photos of me and him.
There weren’t too many times spent together.
At least not in a way that made sweet memories.
Since Father’s Day always falls on Sunday, he was always sober, never drinking that one day of the week. Sitting quietly in a Lucky Strike haze, watching television all day, he was physically present, emotionally miles away.
But this post is not about how awful life was with an alcoholic father. And it was the stuff of which nightmares were made.
Rather, it’s a Father’s Day story of Father God’s unending grace and goodness. Of the Father’s gift of life and love…
Daddy — who I love with all my heart and by the grace of God forgave after a tussle with my own angry bitterness — was the youngest boy in a family of 11 with an immigrant alcoholic dad who beat his mom, even once when she was pregnant.
My dad grew up having no memory of being loved, held or cared for by either of his parents. And when he was 14, his beloved and closest brother, Georgie, 16, drowned during a fishing trip along with five other young friends from the neighborhood.
The searing pain in his heart, the deep woundedness, the untold loss, went untreated.
Black hole growing inside him, eclipsing hope to such an extent that he could not bear his life another moment. He sought comfort and forgetfulness in alcohol, women and motorcycles.
Until he met a lovely little lady who touched his heart in a way no other ever had and he fell in love, keeping his dark side under wraps until three months into their new marriage.
It would be 13 long years before that last fight when he nearly strangled my mom. Divorce followed.
While it was a welcome release from the chaos and drama in our home, I cried for the daddy I never had. His addiction and absence leaving a legacy of anger, pain and loss that negatively impacted me for decades.
For one brief, shining moment long before the divorce papers were filed — someone who loved my dad – an older brother – held out a light full of hope.
A gift that could have changed his life, saved his marriage and helped his daughters.
A second chance. A do-over. The opportunity of a lifetime…
But, he was too wounded, stubborn or proud to humbly accept that he could not get better and change his life on his own.
He said no.
And he continued in his repetitive cycles for the rest of his days.
Same old, same old – allowing his broken childhood heart to keep churning up the past. Drowning those memories in too much beer, snuffing out his future with too many cigarettes.
Until one day when his belly distended and he received the diagnosis: cirrhosis.
A light turned on and he stopped drinking and smoking and became a much better grandfather to half a dozen little ones who loved him like crazy.
And we all rejoiced.
My sister and I were glad he could show love to our children and spend quality time with us, too. And was he ever helpful to me, a single mom — visiting, providing, fixing my home, doing fun things with me and the boys.
He even became reconciled to my mom and proved to be a fine and honorable friend for the remaining years of his life. Saying always, “I’ll love your mother till the day I die.” And I believe he did.
All of this, the grace of God, a gift from the Father who loved my dad and longed to heal him.
But, still the darkness haunted him and there was never true peace.
Hurt, unforgiveness, feelings of worthlessness and not being loved were still in a heart long since sealed off.
And then on day he had just one drink.
One became two and two became many.
Until he noticed an odd little bump on his tongue and in fear ignored it.
Another diagnosis: advanced throat cancer.
And then he died at 67. Suffering in a way that not even a dog should die.
My dad’s story began in a home filled with bitterness and rage. And it ended in loss, brokenness and misery.
And the saddest part of his story is the road not taken.
His brother offered him the gift of grace in Jesus Christ.
He walked away from a truly loving Father, father of us all, the One that would have set him free and changed his life for the better.
Dear reader, no matter who your earthly father was or how he treated you, please know that Jesus loves you no matter what. And He longs to heal your broken heart.
So that you can forgive.
And be forgiven.
And be free…
He longs to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the sons and daughters to their daddies…
So that Father’s Day may be celebrated any day of the year…
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