A Tribute to My Father...

June 16, 2012 - Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

I awoke this morning in a real bed, nice and cozy. And you know that urge...the need to give back to nature first thing...so I strolled into an official bathroom...a private bath, clean, cozy, all my own. Even though I've learned to be so so appreciative for the versatile "cup" in my truck...LOL...It's so so extra nice to have an official bathroom. I know this borders on over-sharing....LOL...but you just gotta know how nice this is.

It's especially nice for me, because this is not just any bedroom, not just any private bath. No, it's my father's guest bedroom and bath...in my home town of Charlotte, NC. I'm on my 3 day home leave, and I've chosen to spend these days with my father who's not only just turned 80, but tomorrow is Father's Day.

I really can't think of anything that I'm more grateful for today, right now, than my father and what has happened between us. If any of you knew me from Jr. High School on through most of my adult life, you knew that my father and I had an all too typical estranged relationship due to the painful wounds of divorce....which occurred when I was in Jr. High. Hurt and bitterness, longing and disappointment, kept us alienated for years. But this story today...is not about that painful chapter. No, this story today is to say that perhaps it's never too late to have the relationship you've longed for, ached for, but for whatever reason was not available.

My dad and I over the past 10 years have grown to be best buddies. You would never know we were ever estranged. And what a fitting thing to do this morning, while drinking my coffee at an official breakfast room table, early this Saturday morning while all others are still sleeping soundly....to seize these moments to reflect on how grateful I am for my father...and for how profoundly grateful I am for how healing can occur...even in the most estranged of relationships. It's Father's Day tomorrow, and I'm so happy and proud to have a father that I can embrace with joy...and that I can say "Happy Father's Day Dad"...and feel warmly, and deeply & sincerely grateful all the way down deep inside. As I write this I'll confess....tears of joy spring forth.

"Tears of Joy"....what a rich experience. You'd think that joy would not produce something that we associate with sadness...but I'm sure all of you reading have had moments that you'd call "tears of joy." A rich, and multiply layered experience....so why would joy produce tears that are about sadness? Well...maybe it's like this..."aaaaa....this is so so nice...I feel so joyful...but it reminds me also that it's not always been this way....and that's very sad." When I embraced the joy just now, of how close my father and I am to each other...I also remember the pain of years past when I longed for this but it was not available. These tears provide for me one more round of healing...and one more moment of gratitude for where we are today.

To each of our credits....we've both worked hard to get here. This change of relational status just did not go "poof" and now everything is so schmaltzy and nice. No, it's come through both intentional efforts on each side, as well as a secondary outcome of our being forced to work together on a common problem.

The common problem? Very long story short...my younger sister, emotionally and physically disabled was thrown into a crisis over 10 years ago when my mother died. She had been cared for by my mother, so when she died there was a family crisis on our hands. This was the "common problem," and working together to handle such a challenging ordeal brought us face to face with working toward a common goal...and this shifted the status of father/son...we were team mates. We each felt supported by each other's efforts, we each validated each other's agony, we each felt gratitude that we were not alone in handling this situation which ended tragically with my sister's overdose back in 2003. This is where things turned a corner for us. Facing tragedy together, with anyone, at least provides an opportunity for something different to occur. But I also know it can wreak havoc on relationships as well...as evidenced by so many couples who split after the death of a child. At least for my father and I...it began a process of healing.

Add to this...that we've each stretched to see things from each other's point of view....getting outside the box of father/son...and seeing each other as simply another human being. We've each apologized for hurtful things in the past...and felt sincere empathy for each other's experience during the estranged years. Somewhere along the way...it occurred to me while I was feeling appreciative for our relations, and for having a warm moment with my "father"....that HE must also be feeling some kind of gratitude for having such a different relationship with his "son." I shared this with him....I could hear his voice change over the phone...we both sat in a bit of silence...such a nice moment. When he recovered his composure, he said with a quiver in his voice, "yes son...."

I feel like I've been given a profound opportunity to do this father/son thing over again. And I say this with a profound awareness that this is usually NOT what happens, and sometimes is even not what is good to "hope" for. I remember so many times...sitting with a client who was trying to come to terms with an estranged family relationship....and that healing only started to occur when they were able to slowly come around to a change of expectations....that they would never ever get what they so hoped for from dad, from mom....that this was a profound loss, that had already occurred, that they would never have what they had already lost. Only then could healing occur...

I didn't skip this step. Before working along side of my father 10 years ago, I had achieved after many challenging years...a sense of letting go of all the prior hopes and expectations. There was a sense of closure for me....which released me from the irrational expectations of getting what I had already lost. This also made something different possible...and I'm grateful beyond words.

I know this is not what usually happens.  But I also can't imagine that we can be so unique...I know that almost all of us have estranged family and friend relationships...and that it's deeply wounding.  I hope that sharing a bit of my pain, as well as my joy of something new emerging can offer you some hope where it's reasonable to hope...some encouragement to look for new opportunities...as well as some strength and soothing to face the grief for what has already been lost. To grieve is truly to pave the way for new emergence...new life.

So...."Happy Father's Day Dad!" I'm so grateful and happy we've found each other....I love you, I cherish what we have, I love your guest room and bath (LOL), and I want you to know...I'm so grateful to not only be your son....but to also have such a wonderful buddy. Thank you....thank you....

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Kathy Harrington:
June 16, 2012
Oh Rick, you are so fortunate to have found this true genuine friendship and love again with your Dad. It is a true blessing from God. As I read your blog I also cried tears of joy; it's so hard to understand how family members can become estranged from each other as it happened in my family and continues to happen to this day. I have layed these issues down at the foot of the cross and ask for the Lord to reunite us if not here on earth at least in our eternal home some day! I know God will grant me my desires in his time so I patiently wait. I was so inspired as I read your blog , thank you for sharing your life story, it was a real eye opener and blessing. Hope you have a very special day with your Dad. Sincerely, your friend next door always!!!
June 16, 2012
Wow Ricky, how awesome it is for you to find that father son relationship that you so longed for. I recall the pain that you were experiencing years ago, but you covered that pain with anger, so glad healing has taken place. Enjoy the convenience of a "real" bathroom for a few more days and the precious time with your Dad. Take care my friend.
June 16, 2012
beautifully written
June 16, 2012
Sylvia....thank you dear friend. There's something very powerful about having an old friend, during that painful chapter in my life, that can now see and appreciate the changes that have occurred over these years. Thanks for taking a moment to share your memories and your care. (It's still so funny to hear "Ricky"....takes me back a few years! LOL)
Sylvia Bradley Gladden:
June 17, 2012
You were Ricky then and you shall always be Ricky to me!
June 17, 2012
Rick, what a treasure to have reconnected with you and discovered your blog. My own eyes are teary: learning about what has transpired for you since the early 1980's, being reminded of my own regrets as a dad, and also knowing the joy of reconciliation begun and continuing. Gratefulness runs deep.
June 18, 2012
Thank you for sharing such a touching, profound and personal experience with us. Very moving and thought provoking.
June 19, 2012
Hugh...what a profound pleasure and gift to have reconnected with you! I'm deeply moved that you would find my sharing meaningful. Thanks so much for hunting me down, taking the time to read the blog, and for sharing your reactions. I'll be corresponding more with you more privately...hi to Cindy!
June 23, 2012
My dear son!! You are so wonderful to honor me in this way. Words just cannot express the love and devotion that I feel for you. I will spend the rest of my life trying to find those beautiful words that describe you. Meanwhile, just keep you visits to our home as often as you can. Look at all the friends that you have around you and that love you. I hope that life continues to bless you.

Much love,
June 27, 2012
Wow!! What a touching and encouraging story of your life with your Dad...I remember as a college-age young man that you did not have a relationship with your dad but did not realize the depth of your hurt. Sorry to hear about the death of your mom and sister but what joy to have a restored relationship with him. It is such a blessing and I know you must be so thankful that God has answered your prayers and the tears of your heart. We all have broken relationships in our lives and your story gives hope! Thanks for sharing with all and I will continue to keep in touch with your blog...so well written with such "heartprints" Blessing!!
September 4, 2012
That was a good read Rick! Thanks for sending me the link. I look forward to reading many more of your blogs.
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