Friday, January 25, 2008

My Memory of My Father

My friend Lanae watched Tim yesterday--took him to music class along with her boys, and took him home to play with them afterward. We often trade off doing this, and I needed the afternoon, so next week is my turn. Anyway, when I came to pick him up we sat down and got talking. The talk turned to how much we remembered our dads--hers died when she was 11, mine died when I was 10. Funny, neither she nor I could remember their faces apart from pictures. All the stranger when I realize neither her boys nor Tim are yet 10, and they would probably be in the same condition if they lost one of their parents. I tend to think of Tim as so much older than I was at the time, and assume that of course he would remember us...and that's also strange.
Lanae and I both remember strange things. My dad was the strongest element in our family, in terms of running the show and holding us all to the consistent, precise, stated family rules and not letting any of us vary from the Jones program, all of which fell apart when he died. I know my dad and I got along well (but I don't remember how that manifested itself), I remember the dinnertime grace he used to say, I know of an actor whose voice sounds like his did, I remember that he thought we should send our tv programming to the Russians in order to win the Cold War. He loved steak and ice cream and eggs; he smoked and drank and I'm not sure what his beliefs were, but I think he was kind of impacted by a Catholic nun we knew. He was fastidious and kept his desk and his tools in their exact assigned order (and I learned not to touch anything in his desk or he would know it, no matter how carefully I put it back). He was conservative and I never knew until after he died that my mom is liberal--they must have agreed not to discuss it, because they never argued (my mom clams up if she doesn't agree--that's how she expresses it, unlike most of our family). He loved to spend money, though we never had any until I was 6, when his father died and he came into a trust from his mom.
I know he loved the "Cheaper by the Dozen" book on which the movies are loosely based, and he would have loved to have 12 kids--there were six of us. He probably would have had us homeschool if it were available at the time and especially if my mom had been willing (but she wouldn't have). He loved the outdoors so we went camping or on picnics even in the rain and wind; he loved tools and old cars, he made things, he barbecued, and he took thousands of pictures--only a few of which I have.
I don't remember many interactions between us, though. I remember the probably only time he ever spanked me, he immediately acted troubled about having done so (strange, since spanking all the older kids came perfectly natural to him). I remember him bringing a few presents home from outings on days other than special occasions, just because he wanted to. He and my mom used to go to coffee or lunch pretty much every day in the final few years of his life. And that is about all I remember.
When he died, the whole family's dynamics changed. My mom went to work probably about the time my little brother Greg started off to school, and my older brothers and sisters started being less family-focused and more outwardly social, the older ones dating, getting jobs, and doing typical teen things. I was generally at home, and as I recall I became more aware of being alone--with my little brother most of the time, but very much alone. The funny thing is, I don't remember much of that time at all--how my brother got to and from school (he was 7 years younger than I, and I never went with him), who watched him if I stayed after school (which hardly ever happened, if I remember right). I think if I asked Greg, maybe he could fill me in, but I don't think either of us were very happy with the setup.

The thing is, Lanae is very much like me in her memories of her father--she remembers the layout of his apartment (he and her mom had divorced), but not his face except in photos. She remembers weird little details, but not the overall picture; she too was alone at home most of the time in her remaining growing years, but doesn't remember the specifics of how she and her mom dealt with it. It must be something about the age.
She and I both felt impacted inwardly, socially messed up by being alone so much of our growing years. I remember that vividly, the painful feeling of not measuring up, of feeling that everyone else had it all together and that I never would. (It's a good thing in a way, because otherwise I might never have known my need for Christ!) I know what I've been like, and if God hasn't made me normal (whatever that is), at least He's made it so it doesn't matter; if my focus is on Him, and if He loves me, what does it matter how socially inept I might be, as long as I do my best? Lanae, in spite of having had this same awful inadequate feeling as well, seems so normal from everything I've seen. She does a fantastic job raising her three sons in spite of the fact that her husband's in the military and much of the parenting she does all on her own. God is great and gracious--and He restores the years the locusts have eaten. I know, in spite of a heightened awareness of my many inadequacies, so much more, how He is all my adequacy. Hallelujah!
It shows how man looks so readily at the outer appearance. We often don't know from observing a person on the outside what is really going on inside, or what their history is: what they've dealt with, what's changing, where they are as we see them today, how far they have come to get to where they are now, and how much more they have yet to go through. God does, and He does so entirely in love and compassion. He cares, our hurts are His hurts, and He is our Healer and Restorer, our Heavenly Father. Lanae and I both now have a Father, a perfect Father, who knows us and loves us and will never leave us nor forsake us. Already He has done a great amount of restoration. When we are done, we will be perfect as well; we will be like Him. Hallelujah, Amen!

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