Saturday, February 22, 2014

Father Figures

I'm pretty sure everyone has a father. At least biologically. 

I've been fortunate enough to have had both a biological father and a father who raised me. They were even the same person. How lucky is that?

I've also had a couple people who were father-type figures. Men I looked up to and depended on for advice and for being an example of how I want to live my life. I want to talk about my father figures today. For some of this, it will be reopening some old wounds. However, I'm hoping that by opening these wounds, I will finally cleanse the last of the infection and really, truly heal. From the bad experiences anyway. I hope to continue to use the good experiences to be the man I want to be.

When I was nineteen I served a mission for my church. I went to Peru. I loved the country and the people there. It's still a huge part of who I am and I am still in contact with many people I met there. I met President Alpha (name changed, but if you know who he is, this is a pretty good play on his actual name) about halfway through my training period before flying to Peru. President Alpha was going to be a brand new mission president (most serve for three years). I didn't speak much Spanish at the time, but I felt a connection with my president and couldn't wait to work with him in the mission field.

In my almost two years in Peru, I grew close to President Alpha. He was a good man. He cared for his missionaries. He was good to his family. He was cheerful. A hard worker. Deeply spiritual. I felt he cared about me personally, not just as one of his missionaries. The day after I was robbed at knife-point, President Alpha stopped by to make sure I was recovering from the trauma. I felt that he truly read my weekly letters to him. He often gave me good advice. I would have enjoyed working more closely with him in the mission office, but I was glad that I was able to work exclusively in the field.

I was looking forward to my final interview with him, just before returning home. I hoped to receive some advice on how to make the transition back into the regular world. I hoped to hear that I had been a good missionary. All I remember from that interview was that President Alpha said that my shirt was too worn and, as such, inappropriate to wear. In fairness, I was wearing a shirt that was well-worn. However, I was saving my best shirt to wear on the trip home. That way I could be wearing my best to see my family for the first time in two years. I tried to explain this to President Alpha, but he insisted I go change immediately. I was crushed. Two years of service and all I was told was to change my shirt? Ouch.

Several years later President Alpha and his family moved to Utah. I renewed our relationship and visited his home several times. I loved to be there. I felt welcome and loved. In this time-frame I also started an internet relationship with a fellow missionary who was from Peru. I even visited her there for two weeks. After returning home I broke up with her. It wasn't a good breakup. Around this time I stopped hearing from President Alpha. I don't know if the two events are related. I invited him to my wedding, but didn't hear anything from him.

We're still "facebook friends," but I don't know if we'll ever be closer than that. I'd kind of like that, but I don't know if I dare.

My other "deep wound" came from my own father. Don't get me wrong. My father is a good man and a good father. As kids we have always felt his love, even if he didn't articulate that very often. My dad and I are very different people. We have some similar interests and characteristics, but our personalities are very different. I always found it difficult to talk to him. Our conversations were usually rather superficial. To be honest, I often felt that his church callings were a higher priority than I was. That's possibly just my perception, but it's how I felt. 

A couple years ago I was living in Provo, UT. I hadn't been active in the church for years. I would go every now and again, but I always found excuses to not go consistently. While in Provo I received a letter from my father. I thought it was odd, but was intrigued. I wish I could quote the letter to you, but I burned it. I do remember that it was six pages long.

The overall message I got was that I was not a good son because I didn't attend church on a regular basis. I cannot express how much that letter hurt me. Honestly, I'm to the point that I would like to sit down with my dad and tell him how much that letter hurt. How bad it made me feel.

Unfortunately, due to Alzheimer's my dad probably doesn't remember writing that letter. I'm sure he doesn't because every time I see him I'm not Adam. I'm Brad (my oldest brother). I try not to take that personally, but it hurts a little each time it happens. So my hurt is unresolved and unlikely to be resolved in this life.

I'm hoping that by bleeding the wound it will fester less. 

The experience has certainly taught me to be careful with my future children. I guess that can be my goal, to learn from my relationship with my father and father figures to know how to treat those around me.


Natasha said...

I often reflect on my relationship and memories with my own mother and father when I am making decisions (or reacting to decisions) with my own children. Your post made me think. Thanks.

Ben and Misty said...

Yes you do need to take the examples of your parents good or bad and learn from them with your own children, but also remember that people are not perfect and I almost guarantee that you will make a mistake that will hurt your children in some way. What you need to remember is that we all do the best that we can in the circumstances. Knowing your dad I don't think he ever would have meant to hurt you or have the effect he did with that letter, as a parent now I can tell you it is the hardest thing I have ever done and all I can hope is that my children are patient with me and willing to forgive when I make my mistakes. I don't plan to make the same mistakes I have seen others make but I know and have made my own. I hope you can be forgiving especially now. Also remember that even the people that have been helping him constantly through his struggles with Alzheimer's he still very rarely remembers their names, so please don't take it personally it's a disease that he unfortunately has absolutely no control over. I know he loves you and did the best that he knew how.