The Linn brothers have written that our image of God is often skewed through the realities of our Dads.
I first became a father at age 24 when our eldest Matthew was born. I had no clue as to how to be a Dad. As most of us do, I looked at my own Dad.
Like most fathers, mine was flawed. He had a volatile temper (although he never laid a hand on me). Like most men of his era, he was not affectionate because “men don’t kiss. They shake hands.” And he worked a lot.
As far as faith goes, his seems to have been dominated by guilt, not uncommon among Catholics then and now. As he would say after his second stroke, “I think I’m being punished for my sins.” How he dealt with my sisters’ deaths I don’t know. He never talked about it. I never actually saw him cry until my mother died.
As time passed, though, his lessons became more apparent. He had a strong commitment to family and in time I came to see that was why he worked so much. To provide opportunity for me and my brother. I came to see that he was generous. That he was a good and loyal friend. That he saw life as hard but manageable through family. As he often said in times of trouble, “we’re all in this together”.
In Studs Terkel’s Working. Terkel spends a good deal of time with a steel worker. Like my father, this man had strong feelings about family. His words resonate:
“When I see some sharp young guy walking down the street in a tie, I’m lookin’ at my kid. I want my kid to be an effete snob. I want him to be able to read Walt Whitman and be proud of it…Yeah, if you can’t improve yourself, you improve your posterity. Otherwise life ain’t worth livin’. You know, I don’t think the first caveman went over the hill to see what was on the other side. He went there so he could get his son out of the cave!”
I see now that my Dad worked hard to get me and my brother “out of the cave”. I understand that and appreciate it. I want the same for my own sons and daughter.
Reflection: Listen to this piece from the musical version of Working. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMHyxFDBN8k
For better or worse, what impact has your Dad or father figures had on your own journey?
I was 40 years old when my son was born, an age when my friends would soon become grandparents. I do think that I have fostered a connection between my father and my son even though my son was three years old when my father died. Once, when my son was about 11 years old, he asked, “Is Grandpa Leroy part of our family?”. It occurred to me then that grandparents remain a part of the family (for better or for worse) even long after they are dead. Even more curious is the fact that I once told my son, “Grandpa Leroy loved you” and he said, “I know” as though he knew it from a primary source rather than a secondary source (me). I have not been the kind of parent that my father was. My father and I had two serious arguments in 43 years. With my son I have had about two serious arguments per year. There is a regression to the mean. Anyway, some of my parenting is from my father because I do want my son to be what he is and not what I want him to be.
One of the best fathers I ever met was a man who did not have one. He was orphaned as an infant and then raised by foster parents who treated him well but gave him back to the State at the age of 10 when they were finally able to have biological children. He was placed in a second foster home but ran away and lived on the streets of Los Angeles, successfully avoiding the authorities who didn’t seem to be looking too hard for him. He later contracted Guillian-Barre disease and became paralyzed from the neck down. He had two children of his own at the time, ages one and three years. They became as poor as Job’s turkey after he could no longer provide income for the family. He lived for 17 years on a ventilator and never gave up on life because he felt that he could show his childhren how it was possible to overcome under any circumstances. He showed them (and me) that this was true by his example but he was not given one himself.
Reblogged this on Psyche and Spirit/Richard B. Patterson PhD and commented:
I’d like to repost this in loving memory of Robert A. Patterson 1914-2000