I am on vacation this morning.
Normally on Sunday mornings, you will find me leading a worship service for my small congregation in Southwestern Vermont. Today I am in the town of Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, resting. I have no plan, no agenda, no list of things to do while I am here. I will get up in the morning and walk a beach somewhere. I’ll likely do the same thing when it is duskish.
It’s father’s day. Plan A, before the coronavirus messed up things, was that we’d have all three kids here for the week. The virus, some changed in work that were part and parcel of the virus, and the disaster that has become air travel messed up plan A, so I have my daughter from Virginia and a favorite niece sharing the cottage with us instead. I don’t even call it plan B. I am not sure I still make plans anymore.
It’s father’s day. A dozen years ago, I don’t think I would have given you much odds that I’d ever have a celebratory father’s day again. My first two children and I were on the wrong side of estranged, a common enough thing after a divorce. And I had not even met the woman I love who is now my wife, and her daughter.
Not that my first encounters with her were any great shakes either.
No, we have all come a long way. I love all three of my kids and they love me. The few people who know the whole journey have often asked me what I did to turn all that around. I can tell you this, it wasn’t by plan.
All I did was love them. And stay consistent to who and what I was. And let them know they were always welcome and safe with me. That’s not a plan, that’s just what I do. I did that when they hated me, when they began testing the waters with me, when they came back to me, still leary, and I did that when they lived with me and we bonded anew, and I do that now, as they have spread their wings to cities across the country.
One of the few straight and narrow things I’ve ever done in my life. Utterly without a plan. More a belief and a hope.
I love being a father. I always have. I was ambivalent about having kids in the first place, but once my first came, I loved being a father. And I treasure it even more having come to a place where I almost lost those relationships and had them come back to me.
In the end, it was my kids who decided to come back. It was my kids who made the decision to trust me and give me a chance, to come back, to let that love in, and return it… and let me actually BE a father again, not just hold the title.
And so here I am on father’s day. I got a gift from the daughter who is here. A long call with my son. A long and heartbreakingly loving text from my stepdaughter. I love being a father. Even when they are all grown.
And I have them to thank. For their courage and their gentle hearts, and for giving me a chance. We are a family it seems, and not by fate, but by choice. How many people get to say that?