Finding Freedom on Father’s Day

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What a way to start my Father’s Day.

I mean, I can think of worse ways. Balloons could have gotten caught in the ceiling fan above my bed and mimicked the sounds of machine guns as they whirled around wildly. However, I can’t say that this text lay too far ahead in the lineup.

As I rolled over to silence my alarm, I glanced at my new messages. A text on my phone. From my dad.

I didn’t read it right away. For one, my eyes weren’t awake enough to function. And secondly, I didn’t want to wake up depressed.

Why the heck is my father texting me this early in the morning? Doesn’t he ever sleep?

As I got up, I grabbed my phone, still ignoring the text. I woke up my wife and reminded her that we had five minutes to get out the door and get to church. We got our daughter up and going, piled into the car, and barreled our way to church, arriving only a few minutes late.

My father’s Father’s Day text message sat on my phone the entire time, still waiting to be read.

I got into my area for the weekend services and waited for our pre-service meeting. I pulled out my phone and simply stared at it.

On this phone is a message — one that could potentially ruin my Father’s Day.

Sadly, the idea that a text from my father could make my Father’s Day better didn’t even cross my mind. Unfortunately, a text from my dad doesn’t have the ability to make my day better.

As I waited for my meeting, I decided to get it over with. It would have to be done eventually. I opened my messages and clicked on the mystery text:

Happy Father’s Day. Praying for you! I always enjoy our fellowship.

That was it. I reread the message a few times. And then, a smile crept over my face.

Mind you, I didn’t smile because my dad had wished me a happy Father’s Day. Nor because I’d rejoiced over his prayers. And I did not think how much I’d enjoyed his fellowship.

I smiled because my father’s text didn’t hurt me.

My dad and I have talked in person a total of three times in the past year; if you include phone calls, the number goes up to five. This “fellowship” he enjoys is akin to my wishing a Facebook friend happy birthday once a year.

But it didn’t matter. My dad’s message didn’t have a negative effect on me.

For years, I have carried the burden of Father’s Day as a painful holiday. Countless friends post about their amazing fathers and share endless pictures of their living dads being the best dads ever.

Fellow fathers share how their dads modeled fatherhood for them. They only wish they could be “half the father” their father was to them.

Each and every Father’s Day post rips at my heart and spirit, leaving me broken by the end of day. Then, after all of that, I’d still have to find a way to lovingly yet honestly wish my own dad a happy Father’s Day.

I can’t say my dad modeled fatherhood well for me. Or that my dad was my best friend. Or that I’ve never doubted my dad’s love.

The best I could offer was that my dad was my dad.

But this year, something was different. This year, I didn’t wince at every social media post I saw. I didn’t break at the end of the day over my failed relationship with my father. This year, I actually had a great Father’s Day.

And it all started with a text from my dad.

I wished him a happy Father’s Day back. Then I put my phone away for the meeting and continued my day.

What a way to start my Father’s Day.

Is Father’s Day a tough day for you? How do you handle the emotions that can come along with this holiday?

* Photo courtesy marzinians, Creative Commons.

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  • Kevin Frye

    It’s been awkward for me the last few years, because of my dad’s dementia. This year, I didn’t even call him at all. If he doesn’t remember me, what’s the point? When I was in the US last year, I talked with some of his doctors and I asked them about this. They said that, even if my father doesn’t remember me, he recognizes my voice, and the fact that somebody calls him to wish him well can warm his heart. Maybe I was selfish this year, but I just couldn’t do it.

    • bluzhawk

      I should be leaving a comment for Dean, but I read his post and then something you wrote, “…even if my father doesn’t remember me.” You’ve probably shared about your father before but I don’t remember if it’s a good history. So take this for what it’s worth, you should call him even if it’s hard. My dad passed too quick when he got sick and there were so many things left unsaid. Saying them now doesn’t feel like they count. Dementia is the worst tho, it kind of hollows out the soul. My heart and prayers go out to you.

    • Dean Samuels

      I’m sorry to hear your dad’s dementia has worsened, Kevin. I can’t imagine what that is like and how that had an impact on this recent Father’s Day for you.

  • Jeff Brady

    Ya, this is a trouble spot. My Dad died on January 30 of this year. He had Alzheimer’s. I lived with him for the last 5 years and 8 months of his life because I knew he could not live alone after Mom died. We had never really been close when I was a kid or after that. I think he loved me, but he did not like me all that much 🙂 Even so, we both seemed to do our best to fulfill our obligations to each other. For 18 years he made sure that I had a roof over my head, clothes to wear and food to eat. We both tried, but we were very different and seldom saw things eye to eye. That really did not matter. He was my Dad. He deserved my respect and loyalty.

    Honor your father and your mother and you will live long in the land that I, the Lord, am giving you.

    • Dean Samuels

      I remind myself often that my dad has done his best- it’s unfortunate that it resulted in what it did. But I can still wish him a Happy Father’s Day and give him that honor that, as you mentioned, the Bible commands us to.

      • Jeff Brady

        What did it result in Dean?

        • Dean Samuels

          The result was that he tried to my father me like his other sons and, when I didn’t react the way my brothers did, he withdrew completely and treated me like one of his daughters. He didn’t know what to do with a boy who didn’t like his other boys so he did what he thought was best. It’s unfortunate that this was a very poor decision.

          • Jeff Brady

            Ah…I see (even though I am an only child). My Dad withdrew from me when I was about 4yrs old. I never figured out why; It was all very icy until I was in my 20’s.

  • Eddie

    With my father, Father’s Day is really just another day out of the year. As I hinted in other posts my father is not the sentimental type and certainly doesn’t care to have gifts given to him for any occasion. For this Father’s Day “gift,” my dad knows about me somewhat more then he did this time last year. My coming out fortunately didn’t destroy our relationship as I was afraid it would. It helped to rid me of some anger issues I harbored. However our is still a bit estranged at this point. He is still set in his ways. I think it is just too late to salvage what we have. Maybe in the next life.

  • mistaken identity

    Hey Dean! I am truly happy that you had a great FD with no wincing or breaking. FD is not tough for me now. I lost my dad about 16 years ago, my mom just this year. I have no emotions about either, but I do look forward to seeing my “real” parents in a better place. FD has always been painful for my wife, as her dad sexually abused her. She lead him to Christ 3 years ago just before his death. This is the first year that there has been no wincing or breaking for her. We just had a great time with our kids.

  • My dad and I had a rocky relationship at best; I hated him at worst. I didn’t grow up with him in the house and only visited him during the summer and one Christmas (that was traumatic, because that was when I found out there was no Santa Claus (another story for another time)). Just when I needed him most, when puberty was hitting me, my best friend committed suicide. Then his wife told me he was burning in hell for that act. I refused to have anything to do with him for a long time, and I certainly wasn’t going to tell him about my SSA because I viewed him as too holy. I finally did tell him out of spite, over the phone (how brave of me (LOL)). I was expecting some kind of holy roller preaching that I was going to hell or something; I fully expected to hang up on him. Instead he simply said “I know.”

    These two little words probably saved our shattered tenuous relationship. Still, I kept myself at arms length from him and had many fights with him over the phone. Always over the phone. Most of them were over his had of a wife, whom I only forgave in February of this year (I wish I had forgiven her while she was alive). I kept my kids at arms length from him and his wife. In fact she only saw them once, when she was dying from cancer, and they were babies. She was a point of division between us, and I never got over what she said until February.

    The twins graduated in June. He came down to see the graduation, paid for their dinner and gave them each $100. I think I got a carry on bag from him at my graduation ($19.99 at JC Penney). He and I had a major talk in his hotel room, I fully told him of my past. He said he was proud of me, that I still loved the Lord. I told him that I am tired of hating and that I missed him. I called him on Father’s Day last week, and wished him well. This time I meant it.

    • Dean Samuels

      Thank you for sharing your story, Bradley. I am so thankful you were able to genuinely wish your father well. I pray God continues to bring healing into your relationship with him.

  • mike

    It’s a common refrain among SSA’d guys. A distant father or worse…
    In earlier years I hated my father and believed as a family we’d be better off without him. Father’s Day I dreaded! For years I blamed him for my SSAs… Then I became a follower of Jesus and understood differently…
    It was me who hurt me the most by rejecting my father. Rejecting him meant rejecting me and my masculinity which left a large emptiness.
    Life was cruel to my dad. He was hurt badly in his younger years. Maybe he was too broken to have become a father is what I always told myself. But then I wouldn’t be here. Would that have been better? It’s how God prodded me to understand.
    My dad had only crumbs of love to offer me. But I rejected the crumbs because I felt entitled to the whole loaf. What human dad can offer a whole loaf? My sense of entitlement and my envy of other dads hurt me. I realized my dad had nothing to do with my SSA.
    I learned to forgive myself and to accept what crumbs of fatherly love my dad had given me throughout my growing up years. God showed me every one and by accepting them I realized a healing of my identity.
    I was able to lead my dad to the Lord on his death bed. I can hardly wait to see him again on the other side. Father’s Day now is a day of remembering all that and of my affirmation: that I am my father. And that feels good to me now.

  • george

    Even though my biological father is still alive I cant consider him as a father.though I take care of him, give food, clothes. He is the man who has done the worst things to me. And he is a man i just cant love.i know no love, no care. Only anger, beating, cursing and hate i have seen from him expressed to me. Sometimes it is better never have a father than a father like mine.

    • Dean Samuels

      I’m so sorry for your pain and hurts, George.

      • george

        Thank you brother.

    • Dude I am so sorry. I have a close friend who deals with this (just picked him up today because he was beating him up at 35). He also got him addicted to drugs and there have been many encounters with the police because of this toxicity. Sadly he has a codependent relationship with his father and keeps going back. You are in my prayers.

      • george

        Thank you bradley. Now I don’t live in the same house where he does. Several times he got me to the point where I wanted to kill him.
        I always say not every man is born to be a father and not every woman is born to be a mother.
        Being able to have sex with a woman and get her pregnant does not mean a man can be husband and a father.
        So..but culture says that everyone needs a family. Unfortunately not everyone has the gift for family.

        • I agree with you. My mother was an unqualified dodo bird when it came to prenting. She didn’t teach me many of the things I needed to know (like laundry). Her addiction to drugs was of no help, and she was stoned when my best friend killed himself so I didn’t get the counseling I needed.

          • george

            Sorry for that. My Mather was everything to me…father and mother. She did her best to provide when my brother and I were kids. Actually I can say that I have not had a father.

  • ohne Name

    I don’t have any emotions coming along with Father’s Day. That’s because in the country where I live, Father’s Day is celebrated differently from the US. Here, for most people it has little to do with honoring your father but a lot with drinking (too) much alcohol together with other guys… 😉
    But anyway…
    My heart is sad when I read about the rejection so many SSA’ed guys got from their fathers. My father and I got along quite well with each other but our relationship was mostly built upon the rational. We did some great things together and I know that he loved and accepted me how I was. But I can’t remember that he has ever given me a real, strong and long hug. His way to physically show me affection and affirmation has been patting me very, very slightly on the back. I‘ve hated that gesture, as for me, it has felt like a symbol of weakness. Our personalities are similar in many ways, like myself, he is quite insecure and not assertive. Sometimes, I wish I had had a father who could have shown me how to be strong and competitive. I‘ve often rejected him inwardly. Maybe he has felt my rejection and was hurt by it. Thinking about this causes pain in me as well, as I actually don’t want to hurt this sensitive man who is my father. I hope and pray that I can love and accept him more and more the way he is but also find an identity for myself that I can live better with and that may include some strength.

    • Dean Samuels

      I pray you can find that identity for yourself, O.N.

  • Buckdipper

    My father and I started out with a wonderful relationship that deteriorated as the years went by. He didn’t know how to bond with a son who didn’t like football and certain other “manly” pursuits. I don’t think that I tried hard enough to meet him half way – I wish now that I had endured those TV football games and seen it the price to pay for getting closer to my father. He was overly authoritarian and always had to be right about everything – no disagreement. And he would put you through the mill if you disagreed with him – big time! I felt so incredibly inferior to him regarding my masculinity that I didn’t want to get too close to him OUT OF FEAR THAT MY LACK OF MASCULINITY WOULD BE EXPOSED IN HIS PRESENCE.