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My story is not unique. Regrettably, my parents divorced when I was around three years old. Born in a very rural farm area in the north eastern corner of Arkansas, even today, many would describe the surroundings as a classic Norman Rockwell painting. Over these many years, I have occasionally made it back to the farm in Arkansas with each and every visit bringing a blend of both warmth and regret.

The warmth comes from the scenic environment, remembering Grandma whipping up another blueberry cobbler from scratch and humming a tune which accompanied each and every ingredient poured into the mouth watering mixture, going crawdad fishing in the pouring rain, sitting on Grandpa’s lap as we drove around the farm on a tractor again, and again, and again, and Dad, who always seemed much larger than life.

Certainly, the regret surfaces in remembering that I did not have the opportunity to be equally raised by both Dad and Mom. Undeniably, for better or worse, we are all significantly shaped by the kind of family life we experienced – or didn’t experience. Often, very often, the deepest wounds in a man’s life are not physical. If Dad is not present in the formative years of a young boy, which creates a void, a vacuum, a deficit, even in our adulthood years our soul will continue to crave the best from Dad.

I have come to understand that until a man unpacks and deals with the themes, pain, and addresses the unfinished business that still may remain in life – he can never be an authentic man. In other words, you cannot change what you are unwilling to visit or address, nor can you change what you don’t understand.

I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that we all have unresolved issues in our lives. However, for a boy growing up without the monumentally important deposits of Dad, an uphill battle is created because no boy can become a real man without help. Frankly, there’s just no such thing as a self-made man. The deficit in a boy’s life which would ordinarily be met in a healthy relationship with Dad must now be overcome by other means. And, that’s were the many twists, turns and “Oh, my gosh, how did I get here?” pitfalls of life unfold. As one journeys through life seeking answers and resolution to times of intense anger, pain, extreme behaviors, obsessions, and addictions, to “feel good” can become a narcotic.

Today, many men struggle with their identity, sexuality, and gender. Some of the struggle has to do with society, family dynamics and some of it has to do with Dad. The bottom line – Dad’s presence in the home can greatly influence a boy’s masculinity or femininity. How well I remember to this day, after my parents splitting and my mother taking me to Michigan to begin a new life apart from Dad, my whole world became consumed by the influence of the female gender. Each day, every day, I was influenced by the feminine persuasion in some way or another which ultimately impacted my very young life in ways that I would not understand for years to come. Now, in all fairness, my upbringing was solid and nurturing in ways that many a boy would welcome and cherish. Thank God for a mother that over and over again put me first before herself.

However, the absent Dad factor will always enable and result in unfinished business. Today, at the age of sixty-eight, I find myself thinking about Dad more and more all the time. Intriguing how neither time nor distance prohibits or prevents visiting those hidden places in the heart.

I have often heard that our human relationships can often be a mirror of how our relationship is with God the Father. For too long, I thought my Dad really didn’t care about me. How wrong I was. Even the tragic circumstances of life can do their utmost to consume resulting in a wounded heart and a wounded heart will search and search until it finds peace, rest and clarity.

How well I remember my next to last visit in spending time with my Dad in Arkansas. He was in-and-out of reality due to his advanced stage of Alzheimer’s but he did recognize me now and then. We even had brief moments of conversation and laughter.

The journey from California to Arkansas is always a bit of a challenge in that the flight schedule is a departure from Bakersfield, CA with an ultimate arrival in Memphis, TN, followed by renting a car and making a two-hour drive to Marmaduke, AR. I know, I know!

Is there anything more wonderful and heartwarming than going home? My drive is always marked by miles and miles of farm land, crossing several bridges, and ultimately making a stop at Stuckey’s only to hear that wonderful Southern drawl that always accompanies, “Ya’ll come back now!”

Prior to my Dad having to go into a nursing home, my stepmother, Ruby, reminded me that my Dad would spend several hours sitting on the front porch looking for and anticipating my arrival each time I had opportunity to visit. Even the bitter cold did not prevent him from looking down the road hoping to catch a glimpse of me pulling into the driveway. I have pictured that scene numerous times in my mind. It warms my heart each and every time.

Always, the time with Dad flew by much too quickly. Each and every moment I had with him I continue to cherish. I clearly remember watching him like a hawk with each time his catching me gazing at him and returning my staring with a grin. I watched every move he made and wherever he went, I was there.

Heart reflections cause me to remember the times we road on the tractor to get a soda pop, going to feed the cattle, or popping in to see his pastor. It really didn’t matter. It was time with Dad. Not surprising – the glory of the son is with his Father.

Always, my departure back to California arrived much too soon. Each and every time I would begin to pack, I began wondering how will our “good-bye” go. Will there be an embrace? Will there be words of love and affirmation? Or, will that which is often unspoken say it all?

A few years ago on another trip to see Dad, I remember standing on the landing waiting for my train which was fast approaching. I gave my stepmother a hug and then looked over at Dad. As he stood there with his usual, customary posture (hands in his overalls), I said, “Bye Dad, I love you.” To my delight, his hands came out of his pockets and became outstretched to me. At that time I had to of been around forty years old or so. I received, for the first time in my life, the kind of embrace that melts your heart and instantaneously wipes away years of wondering.

In a moment, in a flash, I knew we were ok and the many years of questioning the past didn’t seem to matter any longer. Through my Dad, God the Father demonstrated the importance and value of letting go of those things which are behind and press on-ward.

Indeed, the seasons in a man’s life are often marked by challenges, victories, defeats, growing pains, and a flood of memories. Admittedly, some are to be more cherished than others.

Just about two years ago, my Dad lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. While we certainly did not have enough time with one another here in this journey called life, the day will arrive when we will be reunited and we will have eternity to make up the difference.

Interesting, even those with whom we did not have opportunity to really get to know, we can still love, and love completely, even without complete understanding.

The power of Dad can never, ever be underestimated.

See you later, Dad!

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