I recently was blessed to finish in Third Place in an essay contest. The contest was sponsored by Faith 900 radio. I’ve attached the text below the fold for my subscribers who don’t get the links on their mobile devices.
My thanks to Delores for the initial link to the contest, and to the fine folks at Faith 900 who selected my entry. And, to my father, whom I miss to this day.
The following essay was selected as a finalist for Faith Radio’s “Write-to-Publish Conference Giveaway”.
Looking back I now realize what hit me so hard when I walked away from Mickey’s Diner this morning: it was the little boy and his father having breakfast in the window booth. I felt joy for the pair. I wanted to go back in and tell them to cherish this time together, but I knew we all need to discover these things on our own.
Fifty years ago, another codger probably walked past that same window and saw me sitting there with my father having pancakes. It’s likely that he had that same blast of joy mingled with longing and regret that I felt standing on West Seventh Street looking in that window.
Dad has been gone for years. I sometimes forget that and reach for the phone to tell him something, or laugh when I picture his reaction to some boneheaded thing I’ve done. We weren’t always close in this life but toward the end of his time, we grew closer and picked up the love that was there in the background all along.
What lies in store for that little boy in the window? Will he grow to love his father in spite of their combined flaws? Will his father understand that all children need some space to make, and subsequently fix, their own mistakes? Will they grow with each other as a team? Alternatively, will they find adversity an insurmountable obstacle and turn on each other, losing the bond that God installed in them at the moment of creation.
I walked down the sidewalk to my car and sat in the parking lot thinking about my father. We had a lot of years where it was adversarial. That’s normal for men: each wants to be the alpha. However, it hurt. We had so much more in common than we had in opposition yet neither of us could move to bridge the gap.
I realized as I sat in that parking lot that I had that same relationship with God, The Father. He’d loved me just like that father in the window. He’d nurtured me, loved me, sorrowed over my failures and celebrated my victories just like an earthly father. I’m sure that at times he wept over my anger and frustration and tried to guide me on to the right path – just like my biological father.
Neither my Dad nor The Father was able to reach me until I had hit whatever point was programmed into my brain as “that moment.” I found the love for my earthly father first. We got along pretty well those last few years and at the time of his death, we’d healed the wounds and said goodbye on good terms. Part of that was a series of random phone calls where we’d just chat and talk about nothing in particular. Sometimes it was just mailing him a DVD that I knew he’d like. At the end, it was taking him to the doctor for treatment and letting him complain about the pain and illness that had become his life.
My Heavenly Father was next. I knew His love instantly when I opened my heart and let Him back into my life. He was gracious, kind, and compassionate. He also had some things I needed to do to complete the healing process.
There was a short list of tasks that included learning His word and abiding by it in my life. Part of it was to profess my faith to others. Most of it was to heal the relationships in my own life and learn to love myself again.
I won’t be having pancakes with my Dad anytime soon. However, if I could sit with that young boy and his father I’d tell them this:
Take time to love each other. Share a faith in Christ that can strengthen you in times of trouble. Join your forces and be strong as a team. Never let anyone outside of the two of you split you apart and destroy your love for each other. Encourage others to join you in faith and share that love as widely as possible. Nurture your spouses and your children in an image of the love you share with each other and with The Father.
Most of all spend time with God every day. He wants to hear from you as much as any biological parent. Do it through prayer and reflection. The strength you get, and the model you can find, in Him will make it possible for you to grow in love with each other.
One final thought – Dad, have them put chocolate chips in my pancakes. I’ll be there soon enough. I can’t wait to see both of my fathers in person. And, Happy Father’s Day just a little bit early.
Written by: Joseph Courtemanche