Last weekend I went to a young man’s high school graduation.
This young man’s mom got pregnant too young and the bio-dad was, at best, a deadbeat. So, given this young man’s relation and proximity, my dad stepped up and raised him. I did my part from 200+ miles away to make sure this young man had more than one strong male role model. But, my dad was so involved in this young man’s life that he called my dad, “dad”. That’s the significance of this relationship.
Fast forward to last week. The young man hasn’t seen his bio-dad since he was maybe 5 or 6. And even then the young man’s mother had to go to the father, and the young man had to visit his dad in a halfway house.
But the bio-dad (and that whole family) is invited to graduation. The rest of bio-dad’s family are stand-up humans by all accounts. And they have been kind to the young man through the years; not terribly involved, but kind.
Hope springs eternal when there’s a chance your dad might want to be part of your life.
AND For the first time in the young man’s 18 years of life, his bio-dad honors a commitment and actually shows up. The young man spends more time with his bio-dad at his high school graduation than in the previous 18 years combined.
And it’s all he can talk about.
It’s awkward. It’s a little confusing. But he warms up quickly. I arrive the day of graduation and the young man can’t wait to tell me about all the other siblings he’s met, and the new sibling about to be born. He’s excited for the opportunity to be a good influence in their lives. He’s already making plans for visits and finally having a relationship with his bio-dad.
My preference would be to execute the scumbag for all the times the young man wept at broken promises, but my role is not to break the young man’s heart or stomp on his enthusiasm. Besides, even though he’s forgotten about all the pain his bio-dad caused him, he hasn’t really forgotten.
But hope springs eternal when there’s a chance your dad might want to be part of your life.
Credit where it’s due: bio-dad said the right things. He was warm with the young man. I watched them embrace more than once, seemingly sincere embraces between father and son. Bio-dad apologized. He thanked my dad for doing the job he neglected. He promised that he would do better, be better.
Whether or not I believe him is wholly irrelevant. The fact is: it re-centered the young man’s universe. It probably should have.
The young man cannot and will not suddenly forget the man who raised him, taught him to play ball, took him camping, gave him his first pocket knife, taught him to drive, and – most importantly – led him to Christ. My dad will always be “dad”. My dad is his hero. And watching him sacrifice 18+ years of what should have been empty-nest time with my mom to raise someone else’s son further solidifies dad as the best man I’ll ever know.
I hope my dad remembers that the young man’s enthusiasm for a potential relationship with bio-dad does not diminish the young man’s love for and gratitude to him.
Dads, entire worlds align around you. Whole universes change course when you offer an approving word.
But God made boys to crave the blessing of their fathers. I hope bio-dad is telling the truth about who he is now. I hope he’s around so much that I’m forced to deal with my lingering desire to beat the shit out of him. I hope he and the young man have 30 or 40 years of awesome father-son time. I hope with the young man.
Coincidentally, it’s Father’s Day. I swear I didn’t realize that when I started writing this.
Dads, you’ve been given a superpower. Let’s call it gravity. Entire worlds align around you. Whole universes change course when you offer an approving word. Storms subside in your strong, calming presence. You matter to your sons like the sun matters to all life on earth.
Use your power to bring life and raise superheroes.
I’m honored to be in your company.