I’ve been sharing a lot lately about some of the pain that cut me deeply while I was growing up. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my family immensely!
I may have inherited my depression from my mom and my avoidance of conflict and difficult conversations from my dad. But my mom also passed to me her faith. I haven’t come to all of the same conclusions she did about god and life. Still, despite messing my head up with shame and guilt and magical thinking, I cannot possibly overstate how monumental and elemental that formation was on who I am today. My mom also had a burning thirst for justice that could never be quenched. Despite dogma, she was deeply inquisitive. She was once thrown out of a Bible study for asking if anyone else had ever wondered if the Jews were right about the Messiah and if Jesus could have been some sort of Antichrist. I never want to grow blind or numb to the injustice that rages all around me. And I never want to let go of that wild sense of wonder at the world around. I never want to quit questioning, evaluating, evolving. Thank you mom!
My father – even in his worst years of alcoholism – has always been the hardest worker I have ever witnessed in my life. A lot of the times that he was absent when I was a youth, he was working his fingers to the bone laying sod and guardrail, doing road construction all over the state Michigan. Even retired, at age 71, he still works his ass off. He does odd jobs for my uncle. He is always at my brother’s house cutting and stacking wood, tinkering with vehicles, boats, or helping my brother work on his barn. I have had mostly sedentary jobs throughout my life: retail, sales and a short time in ministry. But I did inherit (at least some) of my dad’s work ethic and a double portion of his fighting spirit. Besides the time when I was a full time student, working at part time internships, I have only been jobless a few weeks of my adult life. In fact I hung on so long, fought so hard to find my place in ministry that my heart was broke a thousand times over and I nearly lost my sanity. I haven’t become the hunter and gatherer that my dad is; and I always seem to have jobs where I am not the primary bread winner (with my ex-wife and with Amanda). But I don’t give up. I punch that damn clock everyday to support my loved ones.
I often wonder what my mom would say if she could see me now. I often worry about what my dad thinks of me. Will he ever be as proud of me as that day I graduated from seminary? I know he worries about me not going to church. He worries about my “soul.” I wonder if he will ever say he is proud of me for not giving up on life and work after a soul crushing 4 years candidating at churches, receiving one rejection letter after another. Will he ever say he is as proud of me for swallowing my pride and taking an entry level job and going to work everyday, after earning a Masters degree that is useless in almost any other field?
We almost lost my dad a year ago. All of those years when I was young and he drove drunk behind the wheel, he never received so much as a scratch. Last April, after a day of working around my brothers house all day he was ran off the road on a sunny Saturday afternoon by someone who was either drinking or texting or changing the radio station. We’ll never know. The hit and run cracked his head open and broke his jaw. A few weeks in the hospital and a year later, he is back to fishing and working any odd job he can.
It scared the hell out of me. When my mom passed, there had been so many words left unsaid. I had to do a couple of years of deep soul searching to integrate my negative feelings and love for her. I don’t want to make the same mistake with my dad. I want to tell him how proud I am of him for sobering up, for never being to old to learn from his mistakes. I want to tell him I adore the way he interacts tenderly with my step-mom. I want to learn to express my love and admiration for him while he is here. I want to have those difficult conversations. I want to stand my ground about my decision to leave ministry before it killed me, agree to disagree, and still tell him I love him.
I am a work in progress. Don’t give up on me dad. Once upon a time you put us through a lot of hell. I have never given up on you. I hope. And again, I want to turn my hope into action.