My dad wasn’t around a whole lot when I was growing up. Often, I find myself bitter about it.
A lot of us have “daddy issues” and I realize mine seem minuscule in comparison with other people who have had abusive fathers, disapproving fathers, or no fathers at all. I know I have a lot to be thankful for and I work continuously on replacing those bitter feelings with ones of forgiveness and happier memories. Sometimes, it is hard to forgive.
The other day, I was sitting with a friend and we talked over a couple glasses of pinot noir, something we hadn’t yet tasted in the realm of wines. We came upon the subject of pets, past and present, and pets we wanted to have in the future. We are both dog people. We agree that nothing is better than a warm doggie that will curl up beside you and cuddle, or one that will run like crazy around the house after being given a bath.
I recounted a tale I had long forgotten from my childhood. At one point, my family had a rather wild, hyper dog named Lucy. She was a beautiful black dog with a long nose and full, fuzzy tail, but she was not trained. There were three of us kids at the time (I am the oldest of six children now) and while we did like having a dog, none of us would go near her unless it was absolutely necessary. She would jump all over us and bite our arms, legs and head. While to her it was simply playtime, to us it was a fearful trip to get to her food bowl for two seconds. I usually resorted to waiting until she was at the opposite end of the yard on her zip-line, then darting in fast, dumping the food in the bowl and running to get away before she caught up.
I always hoped (usually in vain) that her bowl was on the outskirts of her leash-bound perimeter, so that Operation Dart-Dump-Run would be easier. I remember we had just come home from a weekend trip to the beach, and I was told to feed the dog. Lucy knew we were home, but was at the other end of the yard, barking at something on the reverse side of our six-foot wooden fence. I took the chance and filled her bowl, then darted away again, out of her reach. Another successful operation completed.
Or so I thought.
Not even halfway back to the house, from behind I heard a loud SNAP, then the sound of heavy breathing and fast, four-legged footfalls (puh-da-dum, puh-da-dum, puh-da-dum) bearing down upon me. In my sudden realization, I didn’t even look back as I sprinted toward the house with fear and adrenaline in control of my 10-year-old body. With Lucy closing in from behind, I knew I was not going to make it to the back door in time. I readjusted my course for the nearest thing that would get me out of reach — the plastic trash bin that held our rabbits’ straw bales, which was about 3-4 feet high. I don’t believe I have ever leaped so high as when I desperately launched myself on top of that bin. The screaming and crying commenced, as I tried to keep my feet out of her reach. The wild canine jumped and bit the side of the bin, her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth and the whites of her eyes showing. She seemed fantastically happy about intimidating me and hearing my cries of fright.
After what seemed like minutes rather than the few seconds it probably was, my father came out of the back door. He yelled at Lucy to get down and shooed her away. At that moment, my dad was my unfailing hero. He had saved me from the savage canine that my family was calling a “pet.” He picked me up off the bin as I sobbed in terror and carried me to the back door, setting me safely inside where the evil dog could not get me.
Only now, twelve years later, do I realize that God truly does use everything to His advantage, even our most terrifying and painful experiences. As I find myself bitter against Dad for not being there a lot of the time and for hurting our family in many ways, I also have to recognize that he did a lot of good. Nobody is perfect, and parents are held to standards of perfection that are impossible to hold up all of the time. Everyone falls at some point.
Looking back, as painful as the past may have been, I would never change a thing. I can only look for the times that he did well in our lives as children. That is what helps me to forgive him. That was the day my dad became my hero.