14 Jun Living Up to the Name of Father
If any of you read my introduction piece put out several months ago, you’ll already know a bit of my background. My father is serving two life sentences for child abuse, sexual abuse and torture. The crimes he committed were committed on his own children during the course of my childhood. I won’t go into specifics, but suffice it to say that it takes a whole lot for a man to be convicted of Torture. I don’t mean to elicit any degree of pity from my readers because there is so much strength and wisdom learned from being raised in a furnace of affliction. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest flames. So here I am today, far from broken, but with deeply held convictions and perspectives learned in dire times.
I used to hate Father’s Day. It was the one day of the year that reminded me that everyone else had a father and I was sorely lacking one. I went to church and heard stories of magnificent role models who loved and cared for and wanted their daughters. I felt two things at the same time. Jealousy that my own father didn’t care for me and this strange tinge of hope in my child heart that someday he would be the man I knew was secreted deep inside of him.
Despite all contrary evidence I knew that my father was a good man. I knew it. In fact, one day I found a dead bird on the playground. I was maybe seven years old. I felt so much pity on the bird, knowing it could never fly again. I picked it up and took the bird to my father. I asked my father to pray for the bird. Pray for the bird and bring it back to life, like Lazarus. I knew he could. I knew that if he just asked, the bird would awaken and fly away. Instead he thrust the bird from my hand, commanding that I wash. And such was my relationship with my father. I would come to him and ask the impossible, that he bring himself back to life, that he make himself a good man. Not even the best man, but a good one. A man who didn’t hit or punch or humiliate. A man who didn’t hurt us. Instead, he thrust it to the dirt.
And still, deep in my child heart, I know that the bird can still fly away. That somewhere in him is a good man. I have not lost faith in the man my father can be. Isn’t it amazing the power that a father has?
Luckily, what I was not given by birth, I was given by life. What my own father could not do, others have done. I have a very special adopted dad. He took me under wing and applauded, encouraged and taught me. He took my children as his own grandchildren, watching their successes and helping to direct them.
Then there’s my husband. The best of men, taking my little daughters by the hand and treating them with such kindness I know they’ll grow up expecting kindness from a man and accepting nothing less; taking my sons and teaching them to show respect and fidelity so that I’ll never have to worry that my sons grow to love their wives. My littlest son pointed to my husband’s wedding band and asked what it meant. My husband explained that it means “papa loves mama.” Well that wasn’t enough for my little boy because, of course, he loves mama too. So he picked up a string and wrapped it around his pinkie announcing proudly that it means “Johnny loves mama.” And with that piece of string wrapped around his pinkie finger he strutted like a little peacock, proud that he wore his love of his mama around his finger like his daddy. What worry do I have that this little boy won’t grow up to cherish his very own wedding ring, shared by his very own wife? And all on account of the example of a good father.
Fathers, you have so much potential to cause great goodness, or great destruction. Your daughters look to you to see how a woman should be treated. Your sons look to your example for how to raise a family. You hold the keys of generations.
It seems to me that men in our society are looked down upon. Men are pigs, et al. To be a man means you hate women and think of nothing but sex on a regular basis. How is it that we won’t accept generalities about women, but we applaud generalities made about men? I have known multitudes of men in my life and the vast majority are simply good. Good men. Men who would never hurt anyone. Men who give their life’s sweat to feed their children. I have known so many good, upstanding men that I feel personally offended when I hear men being vastly degraded, generalized as stupid, one track minded animals. That does not describe the men I know. That does not describe the man willing to take in an adopted daughter and love her like his own. That does not describe the man holding his wife’s head in his hands while she cries about infertility and miscarriage. It does not describe the strength, compassion, and stubborn devotion that I have seen in so many men.
I want to say Happy Father’s Day to those men in my listening who love their wives and their children. Happy Father’s Day to the men who make it easier for their wives to bear children. Happy Father’s Day to the dads who make the walls of the home safe. Happy Father’s Day to the men who live up to the name of Father.
Melissa Anderson is a lawyer in San Antonio, Texas. She is the mother of seven crazily adorable children and an author of children’s books. In her spare time, Melissa volunteers extensively with Court Appointed Special Advocates educating the community on issues related to child abuse and neglect.
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