Posts Tagged With: fatherhood

Finding and Forgiving Dad

DSC_0038This year I’ve lived forty-nine years beyond my dad’s death. Ironic. He would have turned forty-nine the year he died. Dad passed several days before Father’s Day, 1968. I’ve missed him. Whether I wanted to or not. But he’s been with me every day since, in one way or another. Sometimes a ghost, sometimes a presence, sometimes an ache.

Right after his heart attack, he stayed with us mostly as a ghost. Our mangy dog Pug, carried Dad’s slipper around until it disintegrated. Slept with it in his dog bed. My mom sat at the dining room table, smoking, drinking coffee, in her robe, a ghost herself.

I’d wake in the morning and Dad would have haunted my dreams. Maybe I’d have dreamed about us stringing a barbed wire fence at the horse pasture on property owned by the company he worked for that was then called Martin Marietta. He built Titan rockets.

“Watch where you’re walkin’. You’re so skinny you’ll fall in one of those groundhog holes and I’ll never find you. Or a rattlesnake will bite you.”

I still walk looking at the ground.

Or we were in the garage fixing a car. Dad’d be bent under the hood, knuckles bloodied, droplight glaring on his wrench. I’d be sitting on the concrete floor with an oil pan full of gasoline between my legs, wire brushing bolts or casings.

“Why do I need to clean them?” I’d whine holding my greasy, burning hands out primly.

“You can’t put them back on dirty,” he’d say. “You’re going to grow up and sit behind a desk.”

I did just that. I didn’t realize he was teaching me how to work. He probably didn’t either.

After these dreams, I’d jump out of bed hoping his heart attack had been a nightmare. That he’d be upstairs smoking his Winstons and drinking Folgers. He never was.

But his ghost wafted everywhere. The garage was scattered with his mechanic’s tools, at least the ones my uncles hadn’t permanently borrowed. His rodeo belt buckles hung in the closet. His horseman trophies perched on the dresser. In secret, I’d dig through a cardboard box fingering his Social Security Card, his bolo ties, broken watches, and coal miner lanterns. I still have some of them.

But as a family, we rarely talked about him or his death. My mom sold his Chevy truck and the camper, and worst of all, our Quarter horse, Ginger. She had to. Dad died without life insurance. Still, it was as if to say, “We’re done. We’re moving on.”

We weren’t and we didn’t.

Because our strategy for grief—if you can call it that—was to ignore his death and then when that didn’t deaden the pain, pretend we were better off without him. I was never very good at either of those strategies. But I tried.

Dad was a man of his time, tough. Lord of the house. He disciplined with his belt. And maybe worse with my older sister. So there was reason to speak ill of the dead. Possibly we wouldn’t miss him so much if we painted him with dark colors. When we mentioned him, it was as if he’d run off with another woman rather than died of a massive heart attack.

HCScottHCSCOTT (1 of 8)HCSCOTT (3 of 8)HCSCOTT (8 of 8)I remember when I was about fourteen, brushing my long hippie hair behind my ears, smoking a Camel. “It’s a good thing my dad’s not here. He’d hate my hair,” I said, as if “letting my freak flag fly” was reason to not miss your dead father. Then I’d tell the story about my dad and his friend, the owner of a local Standard filling station, standing in the door of the garage making fun of a hippie walking past on the street.

“Lazy, cowardly hippies,” I remember him saying with his Winston hanging from his clean-shaven lip. Dad served in the Army Air Corp in WWII. But I didn’t remember that then.

This cloaked grief wore me out. When I was sixteen, I drove alone over to his grave in Fort Logan National Cemetery. I stared down at his headstone, sobbing. Slowly, I mastered myself and told him, “These are the last tears. I’m done. You left me. I’m leaving you and I’m not coming back.”

I believed my new-found relationship with Jesus fixed my brokenness and banished Dad’s ghost. Released from the past, I tucked my grief in a different dark pocket, climbed in my truck, and drove away.

The trouble with denial and hiding from pain is it works just well enough. Even though I now belonged to the One who conquered death, loss rumbled inside me like molten rock. I became an emotional volcano.

Jesus did give me a future, though. I married Dee Dee and got busy building a life. Dee Dee opened doors to a life I never dreamed of. We bought a house. We made life-long friends. We decided I should go to college. We had kids. I didn’t know yet that that future included Jesus healing my past.

That retroactive healing began when my dad returned, not as a ghost but as a presence. I was kneeling in the bathroom, getting our toddlers ready for a bath before bed.

“Skin the rabbit,” I said, pulling the shirt up and over the head and off one of their tiny bodies.

Where’d that come from? I thought. Tears burned my eyes. I remembered. It was a hunting idiom and my dad had said it every time he prepared me for a bath and bed. What? He gave me baths and not just belts. A man in the 1950s and 60s who took care of his kids? That didn’t fit my narrative of a cold hard loveless father. I wiped the tears away. Pushed it back down.

But the gate had opened.

“Pull my finger,” I teased my kids just as I remembered Dad teased me.

The memories of the times building fences, wrangling horses, straightening nails, cleaning car parts, sweeping the garage, mowing the lawn—and even being put to bed—erupted and became more than molten nightmares. They became memories of an imperfect father passing on his life and love the only way he knew how.

At age thirty, on Memorial Day, I went back to Fort Logan, believing forgiveness can stretch into the past and beyond the grave. Slowly I had become not only a father but now a son.

A few years later, after I’d become a pastor and “sat behind a desk” as Dad predicted, I was walking back to the office after lunch. I was dressed in a white shirt, dark slacks, and a tie. It was in Illinois and hot. I rolled my shirtsleeves up to mid forearm. As I walked by a storefront window, I noticed my reflection. It stole my breath and the remainder of my false dad narrative away.

I saw my dad walking there beside me. Right before his death, he had been promoted from a missile mechanic to a supervisor at Martin Marietta and often wore what I was wearing that day, sleeves rolled up and all.

I had become my dad. And I was glad.

Years later, for Father’s Day, my youngest daughter had me listen to a rap song by Sean Daley (Slug of Atmosphere) about his dad: “Yesterday.”

“Yesterday, was that you

Looked just like you

Strange things my imagination might do

Take a breath reflect on what we’ve been through

Or am I just going crazy cause I miss you?”

Dad’s presence now permeated my life. And through my grief, once God cracked open the vault, I learned how to reinterpret my life story. Through the loss of my dad, I found my Father. And through becoming the father of my children, I found my dad.

I miss Dad more than ever now that I know the truth about him a bit better.

“You got your love of rivers from your dad,” my mom told me by way of apology the year before she died. Forty-nine years after his death, I’ve learned something else. Jesus most often heals by telling us the truth, even when it is a hard truth. Even when it hurts.CCI13062014

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grief, Living Spiritually | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Fathers’ Day Remembered and Redeemed.

Memorial Day 2013On June 17, 1968, we buried my father in Fort Logan National Cemetery. Fathers’ Day after that became only a painful reminder of loss and fatherlessness. But God, the Father, is a Redeemer even of loss so deep.Harold C Scott

In June of 1972 God invited me into his family by offering to be my Father who would not leave or forsake me. Then on March 1, 1982 God made me a father with the birth of Katie. Next came Brendan in February of 1984 and then Emmy in March of 1993. Each of them have shown me who God is as a Father by loving me as their father.

But God was not finished. He brought Addi and Linc along and I became a grandfather. Redemption indeed.

I still miss my dad today, forty-five years after his death. But because God can turn even ashes to beauty, Fathers’ Day is no longer a painful reminder of loss and fatherlessness but a day filled with meaning and love and hope.Redemption

Categories: Art, belonging, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Can God Heal our Deepest Wounds?

By Eugene C. Scott

In the summer of 1998 we drove home to Tulsa from a bittersweet family vacation in Colorado: Sweet because Dee Dee and I had celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Vancouver, BC. Bitter because our oldest daughter had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, a cancer of the soul, and she was getting worse. My white knuckled grip on the steering wheel exposed the ghostly condition of my soul. I was lost. For the first time as a father I had no answer. The fatherly band-aids–wise words and solutions–I had utilized to fend off so many past crises proved futile against this devastating disease. We had gone to doctors, counselors, friends, and support groups; we had prayed, memorized Scripture, and read books; we had talked, cried, pleaded, and argued; we had blamed ourselves, our culture, gymnastics, and God; we had loved, hugged, and gotten angry. Still her cancer of the soul thrived.

So, we drove east on Interstate 70, in a minivan filled with fear and heartbreak. My every breath became a prayer.

God, heal her. Please don’t let this cancer steal anymore of her. Don’t let it take her life! Tell me what to say; show me what to do.

Miles of empty eastern Colorado rolled by as we played license plate games to kill time and the dread that rode with us.

Why was God so silent?

A couple of hours east of Denver I said, “Look, kids,” and pointed to the words “Trust Jesus” spray-painted on the cement pillar of a highway overpass.

“Do you think anyone is actually convinced of God’s love by that?” I asked sarcastically. “That’s not evangelism; that’s evandalism.”

At each overpass for the next several miles the same lime-green words “Trust Jesus” appeared. What a diversion. Instead of focusing on our pain and worries, we mocked silly Christians.

As we limped into Kansas, my daughter with the wounded soul moved to the shotgun seat. Everyone else was sleeping.

“What can I do, Dad?” she asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. I had no more answers and had to admit that to her. Her eyes teared up with disappointment.

Shortly after that trip, we hit what we thought was bottom: we placed her at Remuda Ranch, a long-term treatment center for eating disorders. In the midst of that dark time, a good friend invited me to a local Promise Keepers meeting. Before Bill McCartney spoke, a local man, one of the organizers of the meeting, was asked to share his testimony. He told a heart-wrenching story about his daughter, who was addicted to drugs, and how everything he did to help her didn’t.

I shuddered. This hit too close to home. Tears pressed, unwanted, from my eyes.

He went on saying he had been at a Promise Keepers planning meeting in Denver just weeks before. During that meeting, his wife called with news his daughter was in serious trouble. He left for Tulsa immediately, east on I70. As he drove, he brainstormed, outlining every solution a father could. His every breath a prayer.

I listened trying to hide my trembling and tears.

Then in the wastes of eastern Colorado, he related, he saw, spray-painted on a concrete pillar, the lime-green words “Trust Jesus.” In a heartbeat he knew God had spoken and instantly he rolled down the window of his van and figuratively threw out all his human plans.

“Jesus, not my plans but yours,” he prayed. “Only you can heal her.”

But in a few miles, he was back planning and problem solving. Then came another pillar. “Trust Jesus,” it shouted. Again he rolled down his window and threw out his human plans. Again he prayed.

I don’t know how long he bounced on this bungee cord of faith. I only know I was broken. I was a puddle. I was unmade.

“Jesus,” I choked, “not only have I not trusted you with my daughter, I ridiculed your attempt to coax me to faith.” I was the fool, not the person evandalizing I70, to believe I was a better father than You, my heavenly Father. I was a fool to think my puny solutions could accomplish anything without Your extravagant love.”

Imagine! To prove nothing is impossible to God, He connected the dots between two hopeless fathers, two broken daughters, two Colorado trips and a crazy person with a spray can.  Right then God poured fresh love into my empty soul and showed me He loved my daughter more that I ever could. In a gentle, firm voice Jesus spoke to my heart, “If I have the power to heal your daughter, and I do, I also have the love and power to carry all of you through this until I do. Trust Me!”

In his potent prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul reminds us that the best response to those relentless, hopeless situations is to “kneel before the Father . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.”

Only when I recognized the paucity of my problem solving, and let my aching heart drive me to Christ, did I begin to learn that the love of Christ could carry me through anything. In this case there was no instant healing, no five keys to happiness, no easy answer. But there was a deeper knowledge of naked, unadulterated Love. That Love has sustained us on a road longer than a thousand lengths of I70. While we travel, healing, in more things than eating disorders, is coming. And our knowledge of the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love grows.

P.S. Our daughter is now 29, happy, healthy, trusting Jesus, married, a mother of a two year-old, with a baby boy on the way. God did exactly as He promised. He did not snap magical fingers and heal her. Instead He walked this long road with us, showing His love is the deepest, widest, most powerful force in existence.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Bible, bible conversation, care, Christianity, church, Community, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, friends, grace, healing, love., miracles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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