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Posthumous Dads Aren’t Perfect

In the fourteen years since my dad’s death, I’ve had time to reflect on my relationship with him. He was a flawed human being. Not a perfect father, but the perfect father for me.

It was love at first sight. Or so I was told. My dad delivered me at home Sunday September 6, 1981 at 5.30am. I was in a hurry and the taxi was delayed. Back then in Jamaica, WI there were no ambulances and my dad didn’t have a car. Daddy told the story of him sterilizing the knife to cut my umbilical cord. Luckily, mommy had no complications. So, after a one week stay for thorough observation and testing, we went home, and life began.

In the fourteen years since my dad’s death, I’ve had time to reflect on my relationship with him. I was undeniably a daddy’s girl, but not in the traditional sense. We butted heads all the time, especially during the teenage years. But I never once doubted his absolute love for me and his unwavering support. I have always believed that fathers play three major roles, priest, protector, and provider. I tend to view my father through these lenses, trying to be objective and accepting. He doesn’t get a perfect score and that doesn’t bother me. He was a flawed human being. Not a perfect father, but the perfect father for me.

My daddy the priest

This may seem antiquated, the father being the priest of the household. But that was exactly who my dad was. I often say that it wasn’t hard for me to believe in a Heavenly Father, because I had an excellent example of an earthly one. A father who was physically there and always kept his word. If my dad said he would be there 10 am tomorrow, there was no need to follow up and confirm. He would be there. I have since learned that this isn’t a widespread quality.

 My dad took the lead in exemplifying Christlike behaviors. He attended church and insisted we all did. We were Sabbath keepers, so sunset Friday to sunset Saturday were reserved for church, bible study and resting. God help us during the summers when the days were long, and sun didn’t set until around 7pm or later. I vividly remember our family bible studies, studying the word together. These sessions weren’t optional. I also remember seeing my dad doing his own private bible study. I still have his bible, with all the underlined scriptures and notes. It’s the only physical thing I inherited from him. He would often tell me that men lack the moral authority to advise women when their own character is lacking. Food for thought, right?

But as I got older and started questioning doctrine, our relationship frayed. My dad saw everything in black and white, no shades of gray. And my questions, borne out of genuine curiosity and quest to understand, often fell in those gray areas. He interpreted it as me questioning his authority and possibly questioning God. My response would often be, “but daddy, the pastor said this, not God or the bible.” That kind of response didn’t help the situation. As the years passed, we learned to agree to disagree, and to this day I credit my father for my strong foundation of faith.

My dad the protector

Every girl needs a superhero. It’s amazing when that person is her dad. As a child I was terrified of Big Bird. Don’t ask me why. And of course, the zombies in Michael Jackson’s “Thrillers” music video. I remember hightailing it to my parent’s bedroom in the middle of the night after a bad dream. As soon as I curled up on daddy’s chest, I would fall soundly asleep. All was suddenly right with the world. Whatever terrors that chased me, whether in real life or my dreams, were rendered impotent when daddy was around. Every child deserves that kind of safe harbor. That absolute sense of safety in the company of a parent.  

My earliest memories of my dad are of him making things right. Being there to solve problems and to comfort. So, it was daddy who stayed up at nights rubbing tummies during diarrhea. It was daddy who applied the soothing lotion when I got scabies. It was daddy who taught me to ride a bicycle, drive a car and believe that I was the bomb. After all, no one whistled louder than him at all my events. Daddy had a signature whistle that drowned out everyone else.

Here, I give daddy a full score. He exceeded all expectations in making me feel safe. Assuring me that there was always a port in the storm. This solid base gave me the confidence to try new things and take risks. My insecurities were minimal, as the knowledge of having the consummate protector at home, made all challenges seem surmountable.

My daddy the provider

When we speak of providers, we think financial support, providing material things. We can agree that there’s more to parenting than providing financial support. But it is a crucial part because it takes cash to care. It is in this area that retrospectively, I can’t give daddy a full score. For the first half of my life he had a consistent job and earning well. Things broke down in my teens. He had trouble getting and keeping a job. Not because of work ethic or any character flaws. My father’s job insecurity was directly tied to his religion and doctrinal beliefs. He refused to work on the Sabbath and also wanted the holy days that he observed off. In our modern times, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. But think abut this request being made twenty-five years ago. Especially by a regular trade worker who could be easily replaced by another worker with zero demands. It was a non-starter. His religious values were prioritized over familial obligations. That was neither right nor biblical.

I remember my dad today as a whole person, flaws and all. Lauding his exceptional traits and accepting his shortcomings. He was who I needed. He was MY daddy.

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