A Father’s … absence

I am blessed with many friends, but she’s been a constant in my life longer than any other.
Sunday, I watched her gather ’round her husband to help her children celebrate.
Her own father, passed away when we were both in high school.
Possibly her most cherished gift
is this cross-stitched treasure.
Years ago, her husband, Jeff, took a tattered newspaper sliver by Erma Bombeck
to an artist of thread
and had it designed and stitched for his bride.
I still remember his pride …. him showing it to me before he gave it as a gift to her.

It hangs in the most busy and prominent hall in their home.

Erma Bombeck tells how her father did important things like oil her roller skates and tighten her mother’s clothesline … how he brought the car around when it stormed so her family wouldn’t be drenched in the rain … and how she was afraid of other Fathers, but not her own. She used to play with dolls. The father doll would say he was going to work and she would toss him under the bed. When Erma was nine, her own father got sick …. and unexpectedly died.

She brings to light
that she never realized how painful his absence would be
… until he was gone.

Della’s father passed away when she was in high school. He had brain cancer. I didn’t know her well, at the time … our friendship just beginning to blossom.  When I heard that her daddy died, I went to the hospital, just two or three blocks from my childhood home. I reached the lobby as her family was leaving. I still remember them … a mass of huddled, mourning …. walking together … arms and hands and bodies intertwined, holding each other as they walked.

This past weekend, I made an impromptu trip to south Georgia. The trek takes at least five hours. If I was that close … on Father’s day weekend …. I felt I couldn’t NOT go see my own Father.

Saturday, I made that forty-five minute surprise drive from Cairo to Recovery.

My daddy is the fire chief for the volunteer fire department in his little community, Recovery, Georgia. He had a special class to attend that morning. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to “sneak up” on him, but with the help of my mom, I caught him on his lunch break as he dined with other fire fighters at Subway. To say that he was surprised … is an understatement.

While dad finished up his class, I headed over to spend some time with my sweet mama. Dad made his way home fairly quickly. We got to spend several hours talking. It was a wonderful afternoon.

My own father is a man of selfless leadership, constant, consistent support and endearing faithfulness.

I don’t know if my older children contacted their father this weekend.
They have had a bit of a falling apart since the divorce.
I have decided that they are adults and I am doing my best to lay aside my direction.
When they ask me for it, I offer it … but
I am only being honest when I tell you that I am tired …
tired of trying to mend relationships
that are not mine to heal.

I thought a great deal about fathers and fatherhood over the weekend.
I watched Jeff and Della … miss their own fathers, and celebrate Jeff –
an active, strong physical and emotional presence in their home.
I enjoyed my own daddy and celebrated his faithfulness.
And I thought about my own children and their loss.
I was reminded of the joy of presence and the pain in absence.

And like Erma Bombeck,
I never realized how painful a father’s absence might be
… until he was gone.


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