My father died one year ago today. On purpose or not I was too busy to think much about it today, but I do miss him. I don’t miss the 2 hour drive to go visit him, but I miss knowing he was there even if he often drove me and my sisters crazy. My dad and I were never very close, but in his later years I learned to accept him and forgive him for the things that bothered me about his attitude toward life. He was too rigid and authoritarian – maybe things I haven’t accepted in myself? We didn’t agree on theology or politics or child rearing philosophies, but in the end none of that stuff really mattered. He was my father, and I literally owed my life to him.
He really did do the best he could to be the best person, father, husband, Christian he knew how to be. And like all of us he fell short of the mark regularly. Like all of us he had to survive some difficult things in his life. Unlike me and most of us he survived a near-death experience in a North Atlantic plane crash on his way home from World War II. He didn’t talk about that experience and I regret that I never cared enough to ask him about what had to be a life-defining moment. So I can only speculate on how the death of his crew mates in that crash or the 12 hours he spent in the water before being rescued affected him. I know I have no right to judge him for his shortcomings and regret the distance I helped create between us by doing so.
All such life events have a ripple effect on everyone touched by them. From that awful experience came my Dad’s conversion to Christianity, which led to my own growing up in the church and my career choices and how my faith and values have been shaped. In many ways I am who I am now because of the engine that failed on that B-17 seventy-four years ago.
A friend told me after Dad died that someone had told him once we don’t really grow up until we become orphans. I’m not sure I’ve made much headway in the last year, but I have a new appreciation for how fragile and temporary life is. Things that once bothered me don’t seem so important anymore. Maybe that’s a baby step toward maturity?