The day he said goodbye, left an imprint in my memory that relinquished a hollow field where I believed no flowers would ever bloom again. I remember how he stood at the front door with a swollen green garbage bag filled with everything he owned. For some odd reason I remember how the toothbrush stuck out the top of the bag. He had such nice teeth. I can still see his smile.
Where ya goin daddy, “I asked?”
“Daddy has to go somewhere, but I’ll call see you soon,” he said.
I hadn’t understood why he was leaving or where he was going. I only knew that it felt wrong.
“Please don’t go,” I begged.
“It’s your fault,” I yelled at my mother.
I grabbed onto his leg.
“Take her,” he said.
She desperately pried my tiny arms from around his leg. He knelt down before me, kissed my cheek and said goodbye. He hoisted the heavy green bag over his shoulder and my mother closed the door behind him.
I never saw his face on the other side of that door again. However, thirteen years later, I saw him, and he hadn’t even recognized me. Ironically, it had been at my grandmother’s funeral where we were re-united. I knew he’d be there, because it was his mother who died. There I stood; dressed in the best clothes I owned. I had hoped and prayed he’d be thrilled to see me. My uncle and I approached him together.
“Do you know who this is?” my uncle asked.
“No,” he responded.
How could he not know me? I was his child, I thought. Doesn’t everyone have an innate ability to know their own children? Even animals know their own offspring! I actually felt sick. The surrealism of that moment has never left my memory. At that point in time the words I’d prepared to say a thousand times, evaporated in my hollow heart. This time, I chose to close the door on him. I had no use for him, or he for me.
In the midst of those thirteen years, I experienced two other fathers. Neither one succeeded in the task that had been furnished upon them. The position of father is a powerful one. Unfortunately, many who have been blessed with this honorable task have abandoned their responsibility.
Memories are powerful as well.
Fortunately new memories can be made that can overpower the one’s we prefer to cast down. And, for the memories that leave destitute pockets in our hearts we can fill them up with Christ. He is a father to the fatherless. His power and love for his children exceeds even the best of fathers on the earth.
It is written, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”(1Cor. 4:15 NIV)