Life has hit me with some serious dots lately… dots that reveal the importance of fathers. Let me share the dots with you in an honest and vulnerable post…
Dot 1. We are reading the book Night by Elie Wiesel. One of the themes is about family that develops into the father-son relationship.
Dot 2. I am preparing for a local poetry slam. One of the poems I have decided to use is about an old photo of my father and me.
Then in a single night, life hit me with three dots. Two of the dots are surface level moments, but then the last dot shook me. I’ll get to that.
Dots 3 and 4. Saturday night I was traveling to Lincoln to pick up my second son from his first job as an intern for Striv. He was working on the highlight videos for state volleyball. He had been in Lincoln since Friday morning, shooting footage of games and then editing video for the introductions before the championship games. Dot 3 was just being a dad. A proud dad. The time on the road allowed me to think about life, about being a father. Dot 4 is a song. I grabbed some CDs to listen to on the road. One of the CDs was Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor. The song, “He Say, She Say,” deals with the effects of a son without his father.
Then the last dot… Dot 5. A moment that has been scrambling my spirit, even today. I tried writing a poem… I have written a version of this post, like five times, what you are reading is just me deciding to write as truthful as I can.
I had to stop to gas up the car on my way to Lincoln. I pulled up to the second row of pumps. There was a white truck at the first row of pumps next to the store. From my angle I could see the front end of the truck and the driver’s side door which was open. I couldn’t see the person filling the tank because of the gas pump. I was going through the routine of filling up the car when I was struck by a voice from the truck.
A little boy said, “Dad… I’m sorry Dad! Dad? I’m sorry…”
My chest collapsed. Tears stung my eyes. I could hear the sorrow and fear of abandonment. I could see him, strapped into a car seat. Eyes wide. Head moving back and forth looking for his father. Feeling alone. Needing to see his father’s eyes, to hear his dad say that he was still loved.
Then he said it again, louder, with a tearful edge, “Dad, I’m sorry! Dad? Dad, I’m sorry!” (Yes, I am tearing up as I write this.)
His dad doesn’t respond. I know as a father that I have had to calm myself down at times before I interact with my children. So, I don’t think much about the child’s dad not handling the moment right then. I finish filling up the tank and get back into the car trying to handle my emotions.
I think about all my students who have rough family lives. I think about my own children who have said that they are sorry… but I can’t figure out why my heart hurts so bad… I get onto the interstate still dealing with the waves of emotions crashing in my chest.
When it hit me… The little boy’s voice mirrored my own pain. Even at the age of 48 I fight that feeling of abandonment and fear the boy reflected in his apology to his dad. Without getting into my messy life story, I haven’t had a relationship with my father since I was 10 years old. I know that part of the destruction of that relationship is my decision. But that doesn’t change the feelings of being lost and unloved that I battle with almost everyday.
If you are a parent reading this… Love your children. Hug them. Read to them. Tell them they are forgiven. Give them a foundation that allows them to follow their dreams. I know what it is like to grow up without these things… it hurts, even decades later…