This Christmas I want to talk about the concept of “Father.” I don’t know how to do that without getting intensely personal, so that’s what I’m about to do. Some people relate to the word Father with tender feelings of love and warmth. Others find the thought chilling. I hope these few words will have meaning to both groups.
My father grew up poor and tough in the depression, then survived WWII. As a toddler, I watched him swear at other drivers and spit out the window of his old Plymouth. He taught me to sing “The Lady in Red,” and perform it for company, much to my mother’s shame—I didn’t know any better. His passions flared and extinguished rapidly. I later learned that he’d often get drunk. As a child, I couldn’t understand why, one night, Mom locked him out of the house to sleep on the porch. My father seemed perfect to me.
I later learned that my father was a man of integrity who feared nothing. He never responded to an ultimatum. He’d risk his business on a single job, again and again—and win. He hotly negotiated with union leaders and came out the victor. He beat the Mafia when they tried to impose price fixing in his industry.
As I grew, so did my father. He loved life and he loved people, putting them—all of them—ahead of himself. Year-by-year he became more tolerant, more patient, more compassionate, more generous, more loving. He grew into an intensely happy man, beloved by hundreds of friends and the central figure of his extended family. I’ve known him to throw a party and have 300 people show up. I recall one big tough Swede once say, “I love him. I just love him.”
When his business had no work, he’d keep everybody on the payroll anyway. When a foreman was injured, Dad kept him at full salary. I recall running the night shift on a field job when an old boilermaker told me how my father took him and his entire crew to dinner and that he’d never forget it. Without deserving it personally, I was a special person in that man’s eyes, just because I was my father’s son. A lot of people treated me that way because of who Dad was.
The Lord gave us the analogy of Father, Son and Spirit so that we’d understand His complex nature on our own terms. I’m His son. Without deserving it, that makes me a special person. Unfortunately, those who grew up with abusive fathers, absent fathers, those from broken homes and those who have suffered all sorts of humiliation and hurt at the hands of a father have a hard time with the Lord’s beautiful picture. In my novel, I try to address that issue. I hope that my simple story can mend some of that hurt. Merry Christmas!