I love kids. They’re so innocent and sweet. They’re so naive to all the dark, horrible things in the world.
That is, until some vindictive adult comes along and enlightens them.
I remember one summer several years ago, I was babysitting three kids, the oldest of whom was five at the time. (Her name was Grace, which is all too fitting for the story.) Like most inquisitive kids do, Grace began to ask me a series of questions. Here’s how it went:
Grace: “Lindsay, where is your mommy?”
Me: “Well, she’s probably at home right now.”
G: “And where is your daddy?”
Me: “He’s… Well… I don’t know, actually.”
G: “You don’t know? Where did he go?”
Me: “I don’t know, Grace.”
G: “Did he go to Heaven?”
Me: “No, he didn’t go to Heaven. He just left.”
G: “He just left?”
G: “But why would he do that?”
(In case it isn’t clear to you, I’m the vindictive adult in this situation.)
Sweet Grace; she couldn’t fathom a father just “leaving” unless he died. I hated being the one to break it to her that, sometimes, daddies just leave.
When I was a kid, much like Grace, I was pretty ignorant to the implications of growing up without a father. I knew that me not having my dad around was “different” and “not fun”. But, apart from those two things, I really couldn’t pinpoint the real pain of not knowing my dad. All I knew was that other kids had two parents and that I had one.
Father’s Day was this Sunday. You’d think that, as someone whose father removed himself from her life seventeen years ago, I would be used to Father’s Day. It would stand to reason that I’d grow increasingly numb to my fatherless disposition with the passing of each annual paternal celebration. It would start out with being a kid and just not celebrating some holiday it seemed like everyone else got to celebrate and then, as I grew older, I’d accept it and be completely over it.
That’s how it’s supposed to go, right?
However, on the contrary, each Father’s Day seems to be more painful than the last which means that this Father’s Day was the most painful by far.
On Sunday, our pastor’s message was about the Degrees of Fatherhood. He ended his message with the best Father (God of course) but, at the beginning, he spoke about the lowest degree of fatherhood: the “Sperm Donor”, or, the one to which I was born. As a part of his Sperm Donor speech, he also rattled off a list of statistics about kids who grow up under the same circumstances I did. (Click the link to go through them.)
As the stats scrolled on the screen, my eyes glazed over and my skin turned clammy. My gazed turned inward as he spoke. It all hit me at once — during my upbringing, I became entangled in an abusive relationship. I was raped. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I fell away.
I, too, had become a statistic. A statistic of the fatherless.
During the message the worship band, led by one of the most Godly fathers I’ve ever known, began to play another song. Not a worship song. But a song whose dirty power chords took me back to the nineties. As Eric sang the iconic first three words of Everclear’s Father of Mine, my heart sank even deeper. And, on the final verse, I caught my sadness in a rock hard lump in my throat. As I sang along, I clutched my swollen belly, and quietly cried.
Now I am a grown man
With a child of my own
And I swear I’m not going to let him know
All the pain I have known
Normally, my blog posts end on a rather encouraging note. A bright spot, if you will. But today, I don’t have one. And for that, I sincerely apologize. This week I am hurting and I am fragile.
I am a statistic. But I’m a survivor, too.