Absent Fathers: And the Children They Leave Behind

This past August 21st, my father died at the age of 94. Gordon lived a full and long life to be sure. Since his passing, I have thought much about my work with fathers and sons and have reflected on what he gave me as a Dad. Some time ago I began to write about the notion of fathers who are "absent" from their children's lives. By absent, I don't necessarily mean deceased or living in another city, but more often, and perhaps most damaging, emotionally absent.

Father's can hold a special place in the lives of their sons. They can be wonderful role models for how to be husbands, brothers and fathers. They can teach their sons to see value in relationships, how to cherish those they are close to, and yes, how to love. Sadly, they can also model something completely different.

My father was always the source of guidance. He could take away my worry with a word or a tap on the head with his rolled up newspaper as he returned home each day from work. He was an example for me of what a father should be. In the poet's words, "He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."

One of his favorite hymns was In the Garden, an old Baptist hymn that his mother played on the church organ.   I now think of those words with him in mind.

And the melody that he gave to me within my heart is ringing.

And he walks with me,

And he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.

And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

That is the kind of relationship I would urge all fathers to have with their sons, and daughters. And though my father is now "absent" he has etched an indelible image in me of compassion and love. In that way, he will always be "present" and because of that, I have been truly fortunate.