Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forgiving Dad

Many readers of this blog know me really well, because they are close to me, and I "let them in", so to say, to that inner circle of myself that many people don't see--The Lovely Steph Leann, natch, but also a few people like MZ, Mikey, The Good Rever'n Ty, and a few select others.  Many more know me from Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), and just know my name or my face, or read the blog and keep up with me there.  And still more just know the name, and that I have a blog.  (to all of you, thanks for reading)...

Anyway, the ones that know me really well know that I'm dealing with the probability that I will lose my mom in a few weeks... months... who knows.  She's not doing well, and every time the phone rings, in those seconds it takes me to pick it up and see who is calling, my mind goes through an entire scenario of my sister calling, tell me the worst.  And so far, it hasn't been like that... its The Lovely Steph Leann asking about our upcoming Disney trip, or MZ asking me about picking up some white mocha, or Mikey calling me about a movie at the ghetto theater, or MZ asking me to pick up some grande cups, or... you get the point.  Its never my sister.  But one day, it will be.

And with the loss of my mom, the inevitable, I will have lost both of my parents.  I'm sure that will be a blog for another day. 

This past August marks 10 years since my father passed.  As the years rolls by, I remember him, but maybe a little less and less... not to say I'll forget John H. Dollar, but its like, your life keeps going.  You keep a little piece of him tucked away, your favorite parts, like when we used to do the "Question of the Day" (as a kid, I would write down a question like "Who painted the Mona Lisa?" or "How do airplanes stay in the air?", and he would write down a response later), or when he would take me to get my haircuts as a small kid.  I mostly forget the bad stuff, though I'm sure if I thought about it hard, I could come up with something--so I try not to worry about that too much.

John Dollar served in World War II, and in Korea as an airplane mechanic.  I've always had the utmost respect not just for veterans, especially in today's conflicts when war is unlike anything we've ever faced, but my feeling towards WWII guys (and gals) is quite simply, they saved the world.  Not everything was perfect, not everyone agreed, and our country then--like now--did some dumb stuff, but my father was part of a military that stopped an ever-growing movement of hatred and power, one that was taking country by country.   And I'm not even sure we'll ever be successful in such an endeavor again, not with today's culture and society.  Just sayin'.

They had a military funeral for my dad.  It was one of the most beautiful, powerful things I've ever seen--he was in the Air Force, and a group of Air Force soldiers performed the service, including one of the... well, I hate saying "coolest", but that's what it was... things I've ever seen, that being the flag folding.  Taps played.  A soldier got on one knee in front of my broken mom, and handed the flag to her, saying, "We present this flag to you on behalf of the Air Force, and the United States of America, and we thank him for his service to our country."   Then, a 21-gun salute.  Unbelievable. 

Today is Veteran's Day.  Usually, I save my patriotism for a July 4th post, and I always do something for 9/11, but I thought I would post something I wrote in 2000, discussing my father and myself. 

From September 1st, 2000....

My father and I have never had a perfect relationship. As a matter of fact, I've spent the last few years kind of harboring a slight grudge against the man. I know he loved me, he had to of to put up with me for 18 years but the problem was I never really heard it from him. I would always hear it from my mother "You know your dad loves you". Sure, he wasn't the kind of person who expressed it a whole lot in words, but in my mind, his actions never showed it either. He didn't come to my graduation or my Eagle Scout ceremony, along with a few other things that were really important to me, and for some reason, I used those as reasons to be a little bitter.

The last year or so, he's been from the nursing home to the hospital to the nursing home to the hospital, back and forth. Nothing specific, he was just getting older. And older and older. In the 18 months or so he's been away, I've probably seen him maybe five or six times. I think I subliminally used the distance from Birmingham to there as a reason not to go see him, when really it was I wasn't ready to forgive for anything. I've never had a problem with forgiveness, unless it had to do with my very own dad. Imagine that.

This past Monday, my sister calls me at work, and says those words I'd been expecting to hear for a while "You need to come home and see him. He's not doing so well." I had originally planned to take the Labor Day weekend and come see him, and thoughts of doing so still lingered, but I felt the Spirit prodding me "Go on. Its time."

Tuesday, I drove from Birmingham in my new-to-me Blazer and went straight to the nursing home. Once upon a time, my father stood 6'4, topped 220, big strong muscles, a beer in one hand, a remote in the other. Now, he lay curled up, looking about 130 or so, a blank look on his face. Not the man I remember growing up. Suddenly it occurred to me how wrong I had been to wait this long.

I think God had ordained my visit this particular day, because there was no one around. The distractions were gone. And my courage was there. I sat down beside the bed and began to speak. My first words were "Daddy... I forgive you." Not knowing, and still not knowing now, if he could even hear me, I began to tell him of the things I had harbored. The things I had held against him. Stuff that seemed probably stupid to the outside world, but stuff that was really important to me. He just stared at me. Not a sound, not a grumble. Just a slightly open mouth, and a gaze.

Then, I began to tell of the most important part. "Daddy... God loves you. More than you'll ever know, God loves you. And you can spend forever with him, all you have to do is be forgiven and you'll be saved." I used the same words over and over... "All you have to do is think it, not even say it. Forgive me, and save me." I said those words over and over, praying that he would hear me.

And, tonight, while I was at Bible Study, my father passed away. About 8:45 or so. I'm quite sad, actually, but I praise God that I talked to him. I can never say for sure... well, not until I reach Heaven myself... if he understood a word I was saying, but the main thing was that I said what needed to be said.

Now... here's your encouragement.... say it. Don’t hold grudges. Not to rehash the old Life is Short adage, but in a way, that’s right on the money. Don’t wait. Find those people you are angry with, find those people you have a misunderstanding with, and clear it up. The Bible commands us to not let the sun go down on our anger... and I waited many suns... almost too many.

Back to 2010, hope I didn't bring the mood down too much... thanks for reading...


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your dad and your mom.

    I'm really glad you got that chance with your dad.

    Not knowing what else to say and not wanting to make a silly cow of myself I'll just end here. Your family is in my prayers.

  2. I have more of a question than a comment: in your opinion, did your relationship with your dad (and the struggles to deal with the bitterness and learn to forgive) impact your relationship with your heavenly Father? This is something my small group has been in discussions about over recent months. Feel free to send me a private msg if you'd rather not discuss through blog comments. :)

    Thanks for sharing.


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