I’m sorry, Dad, that you missed most all of my Little League baseball games. You didn’t see me hit my first home run. You didn’t see me throw out a runner trying to steal second base. You didn’t see the walk-off double I hit that plated the run to cinch our City Championship.
I’m sorry you were late getting to our final District basketball game and didn’t see me score 12 points in the first quarter — the most I ever scored in a quarter in high school. You did get there, but by that time in the 4th quarter we had put the other team away and our junior varsity and freshmen were on the floor getting game time.
I didn’t get to play much high school football. My sophomore year it was discovered I had only 1 kidney and doctors kept me out of the game. I’m sorry that you never saw me play my favorite sport in either my freshman or sophomore year.
I’m sorry you didn’t think much of my musical talent. From age 7 to age 14, I had a piano recital once each year. They said I was pretty good playing, but you never heard me play with other students so you could compare.
I’m sorry you were too busy to see me graduate from high school or to even know I graduated 13th of the 630 graduates in my senior class.
I’m sorry that in the 7 years in which I traveled playing in a ministry group that you never came to see or hear us in those several hundred services.
I’m sorry that you walked away from relationships with my children — who were your ONLY grandchildren — and never saw any of them graduate from high school, get married, and never even laid eyes on your only 7 great-grandchildren.
I’m sorry that you weren’t available to be with your granddaughter during her fight with breast cancer, her double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and the night in which at dinner, every guy in the family shaved their heads to show her support in her recovery battle.
I’m sorry, Dad, that you weren’t at the funeral of her firstborn baby girl that died. Today, Emerson — that baby girl — would have been fifteen years old. I’m sorry that I’m pretty sure you never even knew her name. I’m sorry that you didn’t know a children’s center at our church is named “The Emerson Center” in her honor — you missed the building dedication.
I’m sorry you missed every birthday, every school program, every t-ball game, soccer game, football game, baseball game and every graduation of each of your only biological grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I’m sorry you never met any of your great-grandchildren and that I’m fairly certain you didn’t know their names or how gorgeous they are.
I’m sorry you were absent from the Christmas family celebrations we had each year for the last 44 years. I guess you just kept right on missing family Christmases like you did with Mom, my brother and me.
I’m sorry when we lived in South Louisiana and I fell in love with hunting and fishing, bought my own boat, and fished every weekend, you never wanted to go fishing or, during the winter, duck hunting either. I spent many weekend nights camped out on Six Mile Lake and wondered what you were doing when I cooked freshly caught bass on the fire.
But, Dad, I’m NOT sorry about some things, too:
- I’m NOT sorry I learned to not treat my wife (of 44 years) the way you treated Mother;
- I’m NOT sorry I learned to pour my life into everything that went along with spending time with my wife and children — dance, basketball, baseball, football, plays, church, camp, and eating together;
- I’m NOT sorry I missed a bunch of games with “the guys,” golf instead of a baseball game or a dance recital, or staying late at a friend’s house instead of watching Mr. Rogers with our youngest;
- I’m NOT sorry I never missed a fish fry at my in-laws where all my wife’s sisters and their families were there. We created special memories grabbing a bass filet right out the hot grease, at fresh homemade hush puppies and fried pies and told stories until all the kids fell asleep;
- I’m NOT sorry that we started a beach tradition that was an annual weeklong pilgrimage with our kids, cousins, and always some stragglers at Destin, Florida. I’m NOT sorry we vacationed together as a family every summer. I remember only a single family vacation with you — one on which you fought with Mom about everything WHEN you were with us at all;
- I’m NOT sorry that I learned money and work are not everything and that enjoying doing EVERYTHING possible with my own family was and is far more important than working 15 hours a day, always coming home cranky and griping about dinner being cold.
Dad, you DID do something really good for me. And I’m thankful for that one thing if nothing else. You’ve been gone for two years this month and I never had the chance to thank for this, probably the MOST important thing I learned in my life.
You taught how to live a happy life, have a good life and a good family, to love being with them as often and as much as possible. How did you do that?
By living every part of my life exactly opposite of the way you lived yours.
Some of you reading this will think that I’m cold, unthankful for my upbringing, and just an angry 65-year-old guy who has “Daddy issues.” Before you draw that opinion of me, you need to know a few things:
I dealt with much hurt and anger that I allowed to darken a large part of my life. For a time, that hurt and anger clouded my other relationships. Thankfully, a pastor gave a sermon many years ago that I felt was directed right at me on forgiveness. I’ll share the simple sentence in his sermon that changed my life. This “sentence” actually is one verse of the Lord’s Prayer, which I’m certain you’ve quoted as have I hundreds of times: “Forgive me MY sins and I forgive those who sin against me.”
It shocked me to realize, when I prayed that I was actually asking God to forgive me ONLY “as” — which is defined as “at the same time, to the same degree, while, or only if/when” — I forgive all those who have sinned against me.
To that end, years ago I called my Dad and asked him to forgive me for all the anger and malice I had held against him for decades. He wouldn’t forgive me, because he said I had not ever hurt him. He didn’t understand that Lord’s Prayer importance. But that didn’t matter: I did.
I went to his funeral. The pastor who spoke asked me before if I wanted to say something. I thought about it, but I declined. Why? There weren’t many good things I could have honestly said about my Dad. And the one critically important and life-changing principle I COULD have shared with those there wouldn’t have been understood by most if not all of those who attended.
I owe everything the credit anything and everything that might have ever been good in me, every good thing I’ve ever done, every success I’ve ever had, and 100% of all good relationship in my life to the fact that I consciously made a determination and stuck with it:
“I looked at everything Dad did in his life as it pertained to me and all others in our family AND DID EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE IN MY LIFE!”
I never got to thank you, Dad, for living a pattern that in some crazy way made my life wonderful!