>I just finished reading Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. The last word in my copy of this book is fatherlessness. What a final sounding word.
I am fatherless. My father is not dead, but I do not have a father and it has been many, many years since I’ve had one. My father’s father died in a tuberculosis asylum in 1942 when my father was 18 months old. I have in my possession the actual handwritten letters that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother from the asylum before he died. They are my only inheritance, these letters written by a 25 year old man dying from tuberculosis. Mostly the letters are filled with I love you’s and please kiss my boy. The one running theme in them is my grandfather’s plea for a new pair of pajamas. At the end of every letter, he asks if my grandmother is going to come see him soon and if she does will she please remember that he needs a new pair of pajamas. I remember the first time I read through those letters and cried and cried wishing I could have taken him something so simple as a new pair of pajamas. I don’t know if he ever got any new pajamas before he died and the thought that he lay there gasping his last breath in filthy, old pajamas, all alone, breaks my heart.
When my grandfather died, my grandmother almost immediately took up with an ex-con and had a baby out-of-wedlock with him. Her sister turned her into the Child Protect Services of its day. My father was taken away and put in a foster home where he was routinely chained to a tree and fed like a dog until he was 6 or 7, I believe. Then he was returned to his mother’s care, but I’m afraid the damage was done.
My earliest memory of my father is of him and my mother having an argument. We were outside under a street lamp. Most of my memories of my father are of him angry. He was angry and violent. He called me a whore and a slut to my face and threw me out of my home when I was 17. I’ve tried to reconcile with him several times, but eventually his dark anger always returns and for my safety and the safety of my children, I’ve cut off all ties to him. And so now I’m fatherless.
When my son was a little boy, he’d ask about this mysterious grandfather. How I wanted to lie to him and tell him that my dad had died valiantly in Viet Nam. He was dead to me anyway, why not give the poor man the thing he’ll never have, a hero’s death, and as a grand bonus I could give my son a precious present, too. A grandfather he could be proud of and look up to, even if he was dead. But I never could bring myself to lie such a big lie and especially one that would eventually be found out. That never leads to any good. So I told the truth….sort of. No, I didn’t tell that his grandfather was in prison because he’d holed himself up in an attic with an arsenal of weapons and dared the SWAT team drag him out. I said something lame about him being in Viet Nam and now being very sick and that we can’t have a relationship with him because he’s not well. I left out the part where my father’s last words to me were that he would kill us all (my mother and my siblings and everyone) and then himself in order to end his agony on this earth.
My son was not satisfied with my evasive and vague answers at all. He would always press just a little and then, getting nowhere, would walk away with a mystified look on his face and I would always wonder if leaving him to his imagination was actually worse than telling him the reality. But I did not want to ruin my child’s innocence and tell him the truth that his grandfather hated himself and his children and his grandchildren. I didn’t want to tell him that his grandfather wanted to see us all dead and that he was a dangerous, evil man, and if he ever appeared at our front door we had best run away. Run away as fast as we could.
NO! I wanted to protect my son’s vision of men. I wanted him to see himself as coming from a long line of brave and courageous and good men. I wanted my son to see himself as one of those men. Not the sick, dying man begging for pajamas and certainly not the crazy, violent lunatic who still might show up at my door one day and take the life he should have protected and valued.
I had thought that I’d walked through all of this before. A year ago I would have spoke about this from a place of peace, but today I talk about it through the furious winds of a hurricane that howl around me and threaten to consume my sanity. It is dark here. Very dark. And I do not want to go here again. Not ever again. Trust me, I’ve had therapy and I’ve had prayer and I’ve had healing up the ying yang. But apparently God has ordained for me that I take another trip through this again but this time through the eyes of my son.
Satan has perfect aim and he knows just where to shoot the arrow. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Satan has wounded me badly. Very badly.
But this time, complete Victory is at hand. I know it. Here in the darkness, I know there is light and I know there is a blessing coming soon. But geez, it is dark here now. Dark and lonely. I have no father to protect me now and I never have had one. I’m finally grasping just what all that has meant and how it is that the sins of the fathers are visited on the 3rd and 4th generations. But I will be the generation that makes the difference. I will be the righteous generation that causes the Lord’s blessings for a thousand generations. I claim this as my own. That the gates of hell and the sins of my father will not prevail against me or my own. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.