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Thursday, 1 December 2011


After my last blog someone asked me about my father so I thought I'd attempt to write about him.  It may seem like I'm  beatifying my mother, I'm not. My mom was human and she had her failings but my relationship with her was simple. My relationship with Dad is more complicated. Dad is a complicated person.

When my father was 2yrs old his parents split up. It was 1933 in a Catholic society, the south Netherlands. Divorce was not common. It was nasty. My Grandfather accused my Grandmother of adultery and refused to believe that my father was his. When my grandparents split; the children, 3 girls and my dad, were almost abandoned, but my Great-grandparents came to the rescue and took in dad's 3 older sisters. Dad went to the neighbour. I'm not sure what dad's life was like with the neighbour, he doesn't remember. After 2 years of my aunts begging for their little brother to come and live with them their grandparents relented. My dad was 4 when he went to live with his grandparents and sisters. His sisters loved him and from what he says so did his grandmother. My father's grandfather however never showed him any love. Dad once remarked to me that he had no father. I said something about his grandfather taking that place, dad's reply was  a vehement, "that man was no father to me!" Great-grandfather had a temper, he was an angry and bitter person. Dad once told me that his grandpa used to shout at him and say, "you're no good, just like you're father." Someone, it could have been one of my aunts, told me that when my great-grandfather finally relented and agreed to allow my dad to come live with them he said, "okay but I wash my hands of it, I'll have nothing to do with it!"  It is fortunate that my great-grandfather was many years older than my great-grandmother and died while dad was still young. He grew with little contact with his father and visited his mother infrequently, his great-grandparents didn't get along with his mother. From stories that Dad has told me, his father sounds like he was mentally ill.

Dad was 2 when he was left with his neighbour, 4 when he was taken from there to live with his grandparents and sisters and 8 when WWII started. Dad has stories of that time. His stories of his childhood are not like mine or my mother's. They involve bombing and occupation. Buildings that were there on the way to school leveled by the time he bicycled home in the evening, of hiding in the cellar. It was a time of fear and uncertainty and my father grew up in it.

Dad left the Netherlands in 1950 when he was 18 and immigrated to Canada. He didn't know anyone here and he worked on farms. A year later his sister came with her husband. My aunt introduced my parents to each other and 2 years later they were married, it was 1954. Two years after that they started having kids. 

Dad is one of the most generous people I know, he loves to treat people to meals out and is quick to give assistance where needed. Growing up he would pile us and the neighbour kids into our Chevy Biscayne and take us all swimming or skating. He loved to be goofy and he made us all laugh at times. He does a great impersonation of the fat lady in the circus. He's an amazing whistler. He can whistle like Roger Whittaker. He took us camping, canoeing, hiking and on picnics. he loved being out doors. But my dad had a temper and you never knew when the lid would blow and you'd be left sitting in rubble. I was always a little on edge around dad. We danced around him never quite sure what would set him off.

My great-grandfather's legacy to my dad was fear, hate and anger. I think Dad hated those parts of himself but didn't know how to escape. As dad has aged he's mellowed, he rarely raises his voice anymore. I love my father intensely and tell him so, but it is a word he seems incapable of uttering.

When I grew up and started having my own family that anger started to surface. At first I thought "I'm a Christian all I need is Jesus" but it wasn't enough. I needed others. I did not want to pass this on to my kids. I didn't want to be like that person in the joke who is drowning who keeps telling all his would be rescuers that it's okay Jesus will rescue him and when he dies he asks Jesus, "why didn't you rescue me?" To this the Lord replies, "I sent you a canoe, a motor boat and a helicopter!" So I went to counselling. God uses people. We need to be brave enough to say, "I need help." My counselor was a lovely and wise man named Bob Johnston. He listened, prayed with me and gave me practical strategies. I thank God for the men and women that He has used to help me. Fred Penney is another person that the Lord has used. He understands that there is no shame in asking for help or in saying "I'm depressed I need someone who understands." I am also glad that I have found a father whose love is not complicated but unconditional and never ending. I pray everyday for my dad, for peace within and for the knowledge of how high and wide and deep and strong is his true Father's love for him.

Another favourite:

My God I am Thine

My God, I am Thine, what a comfort divine,

What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine!
In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of His Name.

He came from above our curse to remove.

He hath loved, he hath loved us because he would love
Love moved him to die and on this we rely,
He hath loved, he hath loved us, we cannot tell why!

True pleasures abound in the rapturous sound;

And whoever hath found it hath paradise found:
My Jesus to know, and feel His blood flow,
’Tis life everlasting, ’tis Heaven below.

We all shall commend the love of our friend,

for ever beginning what never shall end.
When time is no more we still shall adore,
That ocean of love without bottom or shore!

Yet onward I haste to the heavenly feast:

That, that is the fullness; but this is the taste!
And this I shall prove, till with joy I remove
To the heaven of heavens in Jesus’ love.

Written by Charles Wesley

1 comment:

  1. Ruth, your post was very touching and human. Thank you for sharing. We all have ghosts from our past, from our family tree, that continue to affect our lives in ways we don't often realize. Somehow, the aches, pains, and joys of those who've gone before us have seeped into our lives. We are richer for it, despite the suffering that sometimes come. Kudos to you for going to counseling as that is one way to make sense of those times when we are stuck.