Television interviewer Barbara Walters once said that the guests she interviews become the most emotional and “the walls come tumbling down” when they talk about their fathers.
In the book Things I Should Have Said to My Father, author Joanna Powell collected hundreds of remembrances from prominent sons of famous and not-so-famous fathers. She requested interviews from scores of men and was surprised at how much trouble they had giving responses. Some, whose fathers were dead, seemed to be grieving the things they wish they had said but still, many years later, had trouble stating what those things were.
The quotes in the book ran the gamut of emotions from resentment of absentee or emotionally cold fathers to semi-worship of supportive, loving fathers. In the preface called “The Struggle for Lost Words,” Powell wrote: “Convincing a man to talk about his father can be like poking a splinter with a scalding needle. ‘What a good idea,’ he says, then leaves skid marks as he runs the other way.”
Powell divided the responses she received into four sections: Gratitude—for legacies and lessons. Regrets—for missed opportunities, clashes, silences, absences. Questions—such as what happened to his dreams? Love—things I’m glad I said to my father.
Some fathers left such deep impressions on their sons that the world saw the effects. Norman Lear said, “I never forgave my father for being a bigot.” So he created the stereotypical bigot Archie Bunker in the iconic sitcom “All in the Family” and encouraged the world to laugh at a man like his father.
Although the book was about fathers and sons, Powell knew that a lot of fathers and daughters also had unfinished conversations. She took the opportunity to let her own walls come tumbling down, ending her preface with a personal message: “To my own father, with whom I rarely talk, there are things I should have said: I can’t pretend you weren’t strict, sometimes harshly so. But I cherish my memories of your playful side. . . . Now that I’m a grown-up, I can see the gentleness behind your stern demeanor. It comforts me to no longer be frightened of you. I love you.”
Powell said that one of her purposes in writing the book was to encourage those who have consistently hung up the phone with their father, having left a number of things unsaid, to rectify that situation.
If you were being interviewed for a book such as Powell’s, what category would your relationship with your father fit in? Gratitude? Regrets? Questions? Love? Because I had a military commander father, an alcoholic not known for his gentleness, mine would need another category possibly called Forgiveness. Before he died at a fairly young 59, I forgave my father for being a far-from-perfect father. I stopped blaming him for everything that was not right in my life. I made sure he knew that—through my faith and the forgiveness only available through Jesus Christ (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:32 ESV)—the past had been buried, not bronzed in my memory. And the walls came tumbling down.
Vicki Huffman is the author of three Christian books (one novel, two non-fiction) available in print and e-book on amazon.com. A Secret Hope, Plus Living: Looking for Joy in All the Right Places, and The Best of Times.
We’re throwing back Thursday with a blast-from-the-past post and you can join in too! Link one of your favorite oldie-but-goodie homemaking posts from your blog with us on Thursday. Throughout June we’ll throwback on a different topic each week. Go ahead, dust those links off and let’s throwback!
6/15/13: 1 Kings 12, 2 Chronicles 10.
6/16/13: 1 Kings 13-14, 2 Chronicles 11-12.
Join hosts Page and Cindy on Facebook where we are discussing today’s reading. Everyone is invited to join by clicking the ‘Join Group’ button. We have 590+ women reading the Bible through together! Join us and invite your friends too