Last weekend, I received a scalding text message from my stepmother, condemning me for neglecting my elderly father in a time of need. Basically accusing me of being a lousy son and not caring about what happens to my old man because I have not called enough or come to visit since he fell for the umpteenth time and injured himself.
My first reaction was to tell her to take a long walk off a short pier – we have never been especially close – but some of what she said is true.
Here is exactly what I wrote in response:
“Of course, I want to be contacted, and, yes, maybe I am a somewhat neglectful son, but I also am the product of a neglectful (emotionally) father. Consequently, I am a pretty good human being, but I also fall short in most categories, including husband, father, friend, and son. I will try and do better, but I have to say that I don’t appreciate being scolded this way.”
There was no response from her.
One of the lessons I remember from my childhood days attending Sunday school classes is the commandment about honoring your parents. Deuteronomy 5:16 says: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
My dad and I have always had a difficult relationship. He was my hero up until the time when I was 12 years old, and he said something really stupid one Saturday morning as I watched cartoons that rocked me to the core and pretty much changed the direction of my young life.
Now that I am a parent and have done and said stupid things to hurt my own kids, I know that he did not intentionally try and spear my soul, but he did. Our relationship gradually went downhill over the next few years, until our home became a battle zone that did not calm down until I moved out on my own after graduating high school.
My dad is an emotional cripple due to the way he was raised, and, unfortunately, so am I, although I have thankfully learned a few things from his mistakes. The first time he ever hugged me and told me he loved me or was proud of me was when I was 26 years old, after my parents divorced. Before that, never.
And while I know better, I still hold onto some resentments from the past. I don’t feed and nurture those resentments, but I know they are still there.
Ephesians 4:32 says: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I want to let go of the past and forgive my dad, and in many ways, I have, but there is still a ways to go. My lifelong friend, Bobby, who had his own screwed-up relationship with his now-deceased father, is a world-class positive thinker and encourager. Here is what he told me about the situation:
“Whatever it is … hit the reset button and start anew. By the way, you can reset as often as is necessary. Count the steps, not the miles. One degree of change in direction can be huge. One degree of change over just 60 miles puts you one mile apart from where you would have ended, had you stayed on the same course.
“Stay on that heading. One degree of change, my friend. That is all it takes. Then … start walking.”
I can no longer honor my mother, because she has been dead for 15 years. There are so many things I would like to say to her, but it is too late now.
It is not too late, however, to honor my father. He is still here, and he is a good man, full of faults, just like me. He did the best he could to be a good dad, the same way I have done my best with my two girls.
Time is running out.
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