Sins of the father…a daughter speaks
by lisha epperson
My father would have turned 89 years old last week. I credit a half-sibling from one of my fathers “other” families with providing this information. His birthday has come and gone largely unnoticed for most of my adult life and I don’t think of him often. There was a time when the thought of him made me feel small. My shoulders would tense and the beat of my heart would change. Barely perceptible – but it would change. When I think of him now, its as I watch my husband gently shepherding the hearts of our girls. I am blessed to know they have been redeemed from the curse of daddy issues and I am grateful to God for teaching me the importance of forgiveness.
My father was a powerful man who believed in control. He only did things his way. He was honest,hard-working and a decent provider. But he spread himself way too thin in deciding to share his love with 3 sets of children. That’s right my friends – my childhood was spent in a cheaply contrived version of HBO’s now defunct show “Big Love”. My serving from that gigantic bowl full of family was terribly small and I’d say because of it, we, the children, were all malnourished. Growing up in this dysfunctional dynamic makes a girl-child feel under-valued, jealous and insecure. A wicked potent brew for future failed relationships. A girls first love is her Daddy and when he isn’t there to adore her into adulthood – well lets just say – she grows up….but the woman she could be is stunted, by the trapped and hurt little girl who is just too scared and insecure to leave.
There just wasn’t enough time. Time to dance with my daddy. Time to sit on his lap. Time to walk hand in hand with him. How could there be? I do have memories however – I remember him calling me bunny the one time he took me to school as a 1st grader. I actually hopped out of the car and into the school yard. I remember that. I can’t forget the hate and fear he instilled in us by using the phrase ” the white man is the devil”. I remember the scent of money. My dad owned and operated a stuffed toy manufacturing company and had many clients on the East Coast. He would come home with worn canvas bags full of money – stacks of bills and coins we’d stay up late sorting. The sight of all that money was tempting and the little hands that were veiled in the filth of that almighty dollar, also stole some of it to buy her 1st boyfriend a birthday present. I remember that. I can’t forget the panic my siblings and I experienced as we ran up stairs to get inside before he came home (when he was in town). My sweet mother tried hard to soften his need for control and against his wishes, sometimes allowed us to play outside. I remember him taking me to McDonald’s – the one time he picked me up from college. I can’t forget the disbelief and relief I felt when he showed up at my wedding. I just didn’t know if he would. Memories. A few of these being things I remember, the others… things I can’t forget. It seems there’s a difference between the two. The remembrances are things upon which I smile…the things I can’t forget – the things I probably should.
Psalm 45:10 Listen o daughter, Hearken o daughter, Hear o daughter consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house….
In 1989 the Lord called me daughter and I found the daddy I’d longed for. I began to heal from the unhealthy relationships I’d been in – all trying to find my way to Him. At the time I didn’t connect with the term sinner. I certainly wasn’t a sinner like all those other people. My issues were hidden behind a delicate and finely fashioned facade. It was almost impossible to unearth the piles of broken dreams secretly held by my heart. But God prevailed and began the process of freeing me. In my late twenties I wrote a letter to my dad. My daddy issues were resurfacing since coming to know the Lord and it was time to deal with my “stuff”. I had not seen my father in years. I was a woman now and single , travelling with a dance company. I wrote the letter in a dressing room – full stage makeup and costume, hot bright lights all around. I felt led to write this letter while waiting for a 5 minute curtain call. It was brief, telling him of my resentment over the years…ending with I forgive you. I love you.
I mailed that letter to the address of the family he was being a father to at the time and got no reply. The following Christmas he showed up for dinner. Suddenly. He did not mention the letter but hugged me as he left in a way that made me know. He’d read. He knew. He loved me. As best he could. I never saw him alive again but I was free.
My father died on my mothers birthday in 2006. He never met my children. At his memorial service I sat in a section designated for his 9 offspring. Three different families. Five girls. Four boys. We’d all met over the years. Connect. Disconnect. Sibling rivalry magnified to a level no child should have to process. I saw my father that day, through the eyes of his other children. My mother’s story is hers to tell so I’ll just say this – she didn’t want to play this game and refused to do so very early on. Never speaking ill of him she simply refused to go along with the program. Their fragmented partnership a sure power player in the drama that is my family saga. So I “met” another side of my dad at his memorial. He was a singer. He played the guitar. My siblings and I were drop-jawed at the revelation of this mans personality. He shared none of this with us. There just wasn’t enough time.
Driving home from a teaching job on the West Side Highway, my father said goodbye to me. I’d received the news of his passing while at work and had left early. Something about the way the sun hit the water and the stillness of the highway during rush hour on a road he travelled so often. I sensed his spirit and said goodbye. I did not cry. No tears. Not then, not at the memorial and not now. I am a big girl and have been saved, loved and healed by the presence of the Holy One. He called me…daughter..when I needed a father. Amen.
Forgiveness frees you…do it for your destiny!
Have the sins of your father plagued you? How has your relationship with your father shaped your connections with others? Do you feel free? How did you find your freedom?
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