Originally published Thursday, 18 June 2015.
I haven’t seen you or heard your voice in over three years. Our email communication has been sparse, superficial platitudes for birthdays and holidays. You said you didn’t want to meet me for coffee, didn’t want to see your granddaughter, didn’t have anything to say to us.
I have something to say to you.
Father’s Day has been like a knife in my gut these last three years, as I lament what I had and lost, as well as what I never had. And though anger and bitterness still tempt and mock me, they have no place in my heart.
I’ve forgiven you.
Whether or not you will forgive remains entirely up to you. This Father’s Day I choose to let go of any expectations and simply celebrate the good.
In so many ways, you were a wonderful father.
You played soccer with me and my brothers, and I learned from you to make face-to-face time a priority with Carissa.
You taught me to get back up when tackled and to keep going after the ball no matter what.
You modeled for me strategic planning and forecasting, and I still buy a paper calendar in this digital era and map out the 10-year plan because that’s what you did.
You gave me an insatiable thirst for knowledge and applauded my inquisitive take on life, even when it meant staying up with me past midnight to seek answers.
You led me to Jesus and for years were my spiritual mentor. I can’t look at a Strong’s concordance or a Hebrew lexicon without thinking of you.
You challenged me to think outside the box and lead my peers even though we lived in a patriarchal society.
You encouraged my love for words, bringing back stacks of books from your trips and lending me reads from your pine-scented library.
You showed me the importance of playing often and having fun, even if it makes people stare disapprovingly.
You always made time for me and my incessant questions, welcoming me on your lap even if you were in the midst of sermon preparation.
I was Daddy’s little girl, and even when our lives began to unravel, I held on to the hope that you would love us still. The story is not over yet–I know that–but I no longer expect the shattered pieces to fit back together the way they did before. You may never speak to us again, and that’s ok.
I want you to know: your picture still hangs in our home and I refuse to pretend the good times never happened. You are not dead, and I will not treat you as if you don’t exist. We shared some beautiful experiences, and I will tell those cherished stories to Carissa as she grows.
You may not care to have a relationship with us, your children and grandchildren, but I will not let the enemy steal the joy of our sweet memories together.
So this Father’s Day, I don’t have a card to send you. Hallmark doesn’t know how to package broken relationships into tidy greeting card sentiments. I don’t expect them to.
And I don’t expect you to either. That’s my gift to you this Father’s Day: release from the expectation to make everything ok and permission to relish the good times that we shared.
The Lord only knows if there will be any new memories to come, but in the meantime, when the silence is deafening, we remember.
And we celebrate.
Is your dad still present in your life? Give him a great big hug, and make sure he knows you love him. And if he’s not? If there’s baggage there that makes you cringe every third Sunday in June? Perhaps it’s time to talk about how to forgive those who have hurt us deepest.
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