Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: DOG (08/09/18)
TITLE: My Dad Wept Once
By Linda Lawrence
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We were living on twenty acres of undeveloped land. Beyond us lived a farmer with a few animals. Shep, Dad’s golden collie, killed one of the farmer’s sheep. I can see Dad digging a hole, calling Shep to sit by the grave, mouthing “I’m sorry”, and weeping as he aimed his rifle and shot his dog. It’s the only time I ever saw my Dad cry - or say he was sorry.
The other memory is of my mother weeping. She had dressed my sister and me in our best clothes and put us in the car. She was going to take us into town to go to church, but Dad hid the keys to the car. This was just the first of many times I saw Dad make my Mom cry.
Dad had no use for the church; he called himself an agnostic. He told me he had once asked God to prove He was real by answering a certain prayer. I don’t know what he asked for - maybe to save his dog? When nothing happened, Dad shrugged and gave up on God.
I came to believe God was real because He did answer a desperate childish prayer of mine.
Dad did not like answering requests. He would do something for people if it was his idea, but not if requested. He was a carpenter, skilled with his hands, but he was offended when I asked for help with a needed repair at my house. And he didn’t do it. I stopped asking.
When I was a kid, I remember lots of long car rides in arid landscapes. But there was a stretch of road that paralleled a sparkling, inviting stream. We kids always begged Dad to stop and let us play in the water, but he never would. That still puzzles me. It would have been so easy for him to have given his children pleasure, to have satisfied them, but he wouldn’t unless it was his idea.
We tried to satisfy him, but it was impossible. It was never enough. My brother and sister and mother all had the same experience with Dad. No matter what we achieved he always had a comment on how we could have done better. He said he did not believe in giving praise. However, he certainly enjoyed receiving praise.
I thought God was like my Dad - impossible to please. I was in my mid-forties before it dawned on me that fathers were meant to model themselves after their Heavenly Father’s example, and I was mistaken to assume God was like fallen earthly fathers. Anyway, Dad chose breaking wild horses as his model for training his family.
People liked Dad. He was Clark Gable handsome. Apart from his treatment of our mother, he was charming and hospitable. He said he was born with “an eagle’s heart”, dissatisfied, always wanting something over the next mountain, something seemingly unattainable.
When I asked what it was he was searching for he shrugged, “I guess the quest is the game.” He liked to play poker. After his first heart attack, I asked if it had made him think differently about life, hoping there had been some spiritual epiphanies. But his only reply was “I do the best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt.”
Mom was Rita Hayworth beautiful, faithful to the Lord, and did her best to be what Dad wanted from her. She was generous with her praise of his accomplishments. However, I can’t remember one word of approval of anything about her. He disdained her strong trust in God - instead of in him.
Looking back, I wonder why Dad could weep over having to shoot Shep for his sin of killing a sheep but was unable to weep over his own sins against my mother. He didn’t use a gun, but he shot her down with his words and actions over and over again, without any sign of remorse.
“Dad,” I naively asked, “could you ask Mom’s forgiveness for not loving her well? It would help your children to not be angry with you.”
“I have no regrets,” he retorted, unable to see or consider my point.
I still see Shep’s trust in Dad, eyes glistening, tongue hanging out, panting. Perhaps that’s what Dad wanted from each of us.
Oh Father, his blindness makes me want to weep.
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