"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."
Since my dad's passing, I have heard many people tell me of how much of a role model, mentor and shining example my dad was to them. This included those he coached, those who worked for him and some friends. I heard how he mentored those who worked for him and that he taught them how to excel as an engineer. I hear how his coaching went beyond the game and how peers of mine received teaching that prepared them for life. It's funny that I just never felt that from him. Part of it is my selfishness or the fact that we don't appreciate those closest to you, but I found that this feeling is almost universal between father and son. This sort of realization gave me a deep empty feeling. My dad was a good man in most respects. We always had a roof over our heads and food on the table. I learned a lot of things from my dad from throwing a spiral, to algebra to performing an oil change on a car. Somehow, if he did it, I missed the affirmation I deeply needed.
Even my friend Pete Damianakes mentioned when he hears that type of compliment about his dad (who I mentioned earlier), Pete didn't feel that he got the same type of affirmation from him. It's so strange that I felt that from his dad but he seemed to have missed out on it. It also makes stop and wonder what my kids think of my parenting and the gaps that they have because of me. Perhaps it's an impossibility, but ideally your dad should be the hero, mentor and guide that you remember most as the one who was "there for you". Sadly, for many it's someone else or nobody at all.
Several times I have mentioned the fact that our relationship with our dads and our sons leaves "gaps" in our lives. What we need and crave for from our dad is not provided and so we end up with missing emotional pieces that I think is best described as gaps. What this leads to is all sorts of addictions, passivity, anger and fear. At this point in my life, I'm really wishing I didn't go through all of my years with so many gaps. I never have felt that it was my dad's fault, but for some reason, there's a disconnect and it passes down through each generation.
To all of this I go back to the one truth. We need a real Father who is perfect. He has to be powerful but also very much patient, forgiving, loving and compassionate. I continually ask the question of what would my ideal father look like. I can see my dad has some of these qualities but I also long for the qualities that he lacked. I know that he was human and thus flawed and so I don't hold it against him. What I do know is that only God can fulfill the role of my perfect ideal of a father. I know that concept from the first time heard the Gospel, but only later in life after I have lived life as a son and dad do I really understand the depth and transforming truth of knowing that God is my true Father. All others are imperfect (even if they were great in many respects) and will leave us with emotional gaps. This process of knowing our perfect Father and the healing that He provides is a life long process as he fills the gaps. I really long for the day when there are no more gaps to be filled.