A gentleman and I recently had a brief conversation about an article I had written for Mother’s Day. He congratulated me on the article, and suggested I write one on behalf of Fathers. Upon hearing the mere suggestion of paying homage to fathers, I experienced a barrage of emotions. I felt anger, sorrow, hurt and pain in realizing that my father, a man whom I had not seen in over thirty-seven years, had never played any kind of role in my life.
As I tried to appear excited about the prospect of writing about fathers, this man could obviously see that my feigned excitement was disingenuous. He went on, rattling about the great fathers in the world and how there seemed to be a lack of recognition for them. I listened intently, silently wishing that he would just move along.
Resentments are born when someone doesn’t meet up to your expectations. For as long as I can remember, I longed for my father to reach out to me in some form or another. For years, I longed for a father to teach me how to become a man. My life seems to have been a series of missteps. I’ve fallen several times, but God has seen fit to allow me to get back up. I feel that I truly would have benefited immensely with a father in my life.
My father left home when I was a little boy. My mom recently gave me the details of their separation. I highly respect my mom for being honest and forthright with me concerning the facts of her and my father’s breakup. But I’ve longed to hear my father’s version of events and why for decades he has neglected to reach out to us, his children.
My mom and I recently returned from a trip to Georgia where we visited my baby sister and her family. On the trip back home, we stopped in South Carolina to visit my mom’s sister. My aunt told me that she had regularly been in touch with my father. I expressed to her my sincere disinterest in my father or how he might be fairing in life, for I had long come to accept that he was not even remotely interested in me. My aunt insisted that no matter what, he was still my father.
My mom, my aunt and I drove out to look at some property my mom had long ago purchased. Because my mom and I were unfamiliar with the territory, my aunt navigated as I drove to and from the property. On our way back, my aunt directed me through various winding roads until we ended up on a secluded dirt road with a single beat up shack at the end. There, a lone man sat on the porch. My aunt announced, “There’s your father.” Upon hearing those three words, I was met with shock and then immediately sorrow. All my feelings of anger, betrayal and resentments toward my father were washed away and replaced with a deep sense of compassion for this obviously broken man.
I exited the vehicle and I walked up to my father. I extended my hand as I informed him that I was Anthony Thames- his son. This was an obvious shock to my father, but I reassured him that I meant no harm, that I merely wanted to talk. I told him about myself, about all the mistakes I had made in life and how I turned them around. I told him about my brothers and sister and how extremely talented and successful they had each become. I told him how, though I never had children of my own, all of my brothers and sisters each have wonderful, beautiful and promising children. That we have a family that continues to expand and how we wear the Thames name with honor and pride.
My father explained to me why he had left us all so long ago. I partially accepted his explanation but was ultimately relieved to find that it wasn’t after all, because of me. I was surprised to find that I had another brother who had died long ago and that my father will be 82 years old on September 27th. I promised him that I would at least talk to my brothers and sister and find out if they were willing to come down and visit him. Finally, I shook his hand and I walked away with the hope that he was proud of the man I had become, despite him not being there for me.
My primary goal for sharing this personal experience is to inform other fathers that they really do matter in the lives of their children. That boys, who will ultimately become men, look to the one man who helped to create them for love, affection and ultimately “guidance.” If dad is absent, we will eventually look to other men to teach us how to become men. Oftentimes, these men, or role models, are not always right for us.
I commend those fathers who play a supportive role in the lives of their children. I also give thanks to the many men who are positive role models for our children. I don’t know if my father and I will ever have a more meaningful relationship, but I am content in knowing that I did try to reach out to him and that ultimately, it was a major loss for “him” to not have played a more active role in the lives of his children.