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10 posts from September 2011

MY REVIEW: The newly-released movie Courageous about fatherhood and fatherlessness

Courageous Yes, you should go see the movie Courageous this weekend and take your wife or husband, your children's father or mother and your kids and then talk about it.  The topic:  fatherhood and fatherlessness.  

On the surface that may sound plenty boring compared to watching something where cars get blown-up or where there are writhing bodies filled with enthusiastic and explicit lust.  But, this movie tackles one of the most important topics in our contemporary culture.  The role of fathers has been allowed to languish on the altar of cultural change and we are paying a stiff price for it.

The movie focuses on four fathers who are all cops and a young Hispanic handyman type.  There are three guys, one divorced and with a son, one unmarried and with a daughter he never met, one more traditional family type who wrestled with connecting with his teenage son and who adored his nine-year-old daughter.  The black cop never knew his dad but was married and had a teenage daughter.  

In their individual families, they were struggling with being fathers and holding demanding jobs. They had to deal with young thugs in a gang that served as a major distributor of dope.

One obstacle for many to getting into this film is its inclusion of open, out-of-the-closet Christianity and male characters who read the Bible and who tried to gain a connection to God through it.

But in this period of our culture where inclusion is the buzzword, this is just part of a very legitimate story.  Film viewers need to process the importance of this for themselves.  The main issue is fathers.

Do they play a unique role in their children's lives?  Do they add something to their kids that can't be given by moms?  Are today's dads fulfilling their responsibilities?  Do they know what those responsibilities are?

These are issues which need to take center stage in churches, in bars, at the workplace and in sports stadiums.  

As fans get-together tonight and throughout the coming days for baseball playoffs and the World Series, they need to open the door for the fatherhood issue.

Courageous is a movie worth seeing and talking about.  It's a good story and its told in an entertaining way and for kids who are suffering from some form of fatherlessness, it's vital.

Go see it.

MY BOOK: I was an adult before I could say the word "dad" comfortably without wincing

2011-09-15_21-32-15 The word "dad" never meant anything at all to me until one day in the late seventies when I was holding the hand of a four-year-old and crossing a busy street in East Lansing.  On our way to a baseball field, he looked up and called me "dad."  

My heart smiled when he called me that.  That's the first time in my life that the word dad had ever had a positive meaning for me.  Up to that point, my lips could never make the sounds that go into that simple word.  To me, a D-A-D was somebody who threw you off a moving train to let you fend for yourself.

I spent a good chunk of my life looking for an older man to be a father figure, somebody to affirm that I had worth and that I had hope for being a productive and happy member of society.  I had uncles, twelve of them, and I spent some time with each of them.  They were nice people, but they had their own families and their interaction with me was always clipped and very short.

What I've learned about life and how to live it has been on my own.  I'm self-taught for the most part. I can't underestimate the role of my mom.  She was a template of a strong-woman who had strong values and whose life was centered on love for God and for others.  But, as a young guy, there were limits to what a mom could pass to a growing son.

After high school and graduation from college, my friends started having their own kids.  To me, being a dad seemed to be a topic out of reach for me.  My understanding of it was influenced by my experience with my own father.

Then, my four-year-old friend lit a small fire in me.  Being a father had a growing attraction.  It grew and then it became a reality.  

Why am I sharing this?

My dad vanished when I was 18-months-old, leaving my mother and me without money with barefly a roof over our heads.  I've been blessed beyond my ability to count each one.  But I was left with a lifetime of observations and learning about what happens to a guy who was thrown off the figurative train by his dad.

One lesson:  You can feel the sting and the scars of being abandoned and deserted by a parent and become a loving and productive parent.

What job from my life have I liked the best?

Being a dad!

More  to come.

MY BOOK: Is it ever too late for dropped out fathers to reconcile with their children?

I still occasionally wonder what it would have been like to have my father write or call me and say, "Let's talk."  Would it have been too late and could anything from our relationship have been rescued?

My dad disappeared and vanished back in 1948 when I was 18 months old leaving my mother and me to At front door fend for ourselves.  He never returned, called or wrote.  I'm sharing my story as a "bucket list" type of exercise to help others who have gone through similar experiences and to help inform pastors, neighbors and siblings about the needs of families in this kind of situation.

PLEASE NOTE:  The photo to the right is of my dad holding me when I was a newborn.

Why is this so important to me?

My dad's desertion left a gaping void in my life that manifested itself in many ways throughout my life. For the record, I was raised by a mom who was a wonder-woman who was totally devoted to raising me and to getting me to a productive and happy  adulthood.  My things to be thankful-for list is long and amazing.

But at age 65, I can still run my fingers over the scars left by my missing dad.  I wasn't crippled by being fatherless, but having my father leave and never come back and then disown me after I found him left me with wounds that too few want to talk about or recognize.

Could it have been different if my dad had sucked-up his pride and took time to share himself with a blood child?  Could our relationship have been reconciled?  Was it too late?  What was holding him back?  What would have been the payback for me if he had acknowledged me and called me his "son?"

I grew-up feeling that the word father never applied to me.  My dad was a no-show for most of my life.  I knew that kids came from two halves and I was missing an important 50 percent.  I spent much of my childhood and adult life searching for a father-figure and never found one.  I had uncles who would talk politics with me at a young age.  But they never asked or talked about my life, not once that I can remember.

Let me add that I am a father and that being a father has been one of the best experiences of my life. The fact that I have loving, grounded and focused kids is a miracle of the proportion of splitting the Red Sea.  It's truly a God thing and a wife who was heaven-sent.

As I continue with my story, I hope that there are errant dads out there who understand the power they hold over their offspring, particularly their sons.  One small step can affect multiple generations.

There's part of me that still hopes there's a letter out there to me from my deceased father where he acknowledges me as his son.  It's not to be, I'm sure.  But I can flip the coin over and shed some light for my son, my son-in-law and my granson.  They hold power as dads and potential dads.

And when they make mistakes, there's redemption and reconciliation and getting-up.

More to come.


MY BOOK: Growing up in a church that was not sympathetic to single moms and fatherless kids

Raise your hand if you think a church would be a good place for a single-mom and her kids to get help to deal with the ups and downs of daily life, as well as the larger eternal questions.  But what's the experience?

Immanuel If you read the Bible and look at what it says about how the church and its people need to serve widows and orphans, it should be a no-brainer that you would direct single-moms and their kids to a local church.  The Word of God is filled with examples of how Jesus Christ showed love and compassion to people at all levels of need.  

Growing up at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bay City, Michigan, I found a lot of really nice people, but I saw and experienced little more than talk when it came to showing the love of Jesus to my mom and me.  As I grew, I felt more and more that there were the regular acceptable people at the church where there was a father and mother with their kids and then there were people like my mom and me who were in a mutant family arrangement.

Why am I mentioning this?

As I progress in sharing my story and how it was influenced by the disappearance of my dad, I want to use my experiences to help various anybody involved on either end of the fatherless child equation, single-moms, their kids, grandparents, pastors, teachers, errant dads, and friends.  

Fatherless kids and their single-parents abound in today's culture and they face obstacles where they can use help, lots of help and the church is on the frontlines and needs understanding and encouragement to be involved.

The seeds of my faith in God sprouted in church, in Sunday School and in a parochial day school.  But, as I grew the church became an obstacle, rather than a conduit.

This will offend some people in the church and that's not my intent.  I hope the institution and its leaders can examine its performance in this area and make whatever corrections necessary.

Pastors need to listen-up, as do elders and other leaders.  This issue is tearing at our culture and taking a toll on individuals.  Many who are affected don't want to talk or think about it.  Somebody has to raise the issue.  More to come.

MY BOOK: I think I've finally stopped looking for a "father-figure" in my life

Some of my guy friends look at me funny when I talk about this and wonder if I'm some kind of sissy for admitting this out loud.  But, I've been on a search for a father figure for more than six decades.  It's not something that's so much intentional as it's just there and won't go away.

That started to change last year when our pastor gave a sermon where he emphasized that it's not My dad important who abandoned you, but it's vital to remember who picked you up.  He kept repeating "Remember Who You Are.  Remember Who You Are.  Remember Who You Are."  And I started to see that my search was over.

I had always seen myself as Claude H. Thorp's son.  His picture is to the right.  My father vanished, disappeared, abandoned my mom and me in 1948 when I was 18 months old.  He never came back, never called, never wrote.  He was just gone.

Why am I writing about this?  My life has been good.  I have a lot to be thankful for and I feel that God has blessed me big time.  But there has always been a void in my life.  And that hole has affected every part of who I am.  It shaped me from the way I think about myself to the way I relate with other people.

And I know that there are tens of thousands of single-moms with many thousands of kids where the dad has stepped out and has given up as a father.  Their friends, siblings, pastors, co-workers don't know how to help.  So, they do little or nothing.

The reality is that they can be world-changers for a group of people who may not ask for it.  

A couple of years ago, I remember visiting with an elderly uncle down south who complimented me. A smile came to my face and my heart.  It felt good to be affirmed by an older guy.  

How many times have I felt that in my life?  I could count them on one hand.  

What about now?  It finally sunk in that I need to "Remember Who I Am."  I will talk more about that later.

Am I the only one to feel the father void?  Do you know anybody touched by it?  

I wonder if my own dad ever had the same feeling in his life. 


MY BOOK: Notes about my mother--Frieda M. (Moll) Thorp --who sacrificed her life for me after my dad left

Who has been the most important person in your life?  Think about it.  

A parent--mom or dad, aunt, uncle, a grandparent, a pastor, a prison guard, a friend?

For me, it would be my mother, Frieda M. (Moll) Thorp.  She took her responsibility as a parent 4882885839_2764571108 seriously.  She never gave up. She loved unconditionally.  And when my dad walked out on us in 1948, she was determined to survive and see that I prosper as a child and grow into productive adulthood.

She wasn't perfect.  When she got pushed too hard, she could get angry.  But as quickly as the buttons on her temper were pressed, it would stop.  She could cry easily and did so often especially when it was just the two of us.  

Why am I sharing this?

There are tens of thousands of single-moms today raising hundreds of thousands of kids by themselves.  Many are doing a fine job while others are struggling and looking for a template put down by somebody who has made it through to the other side.

Think about it.  When a child is conceived and there are two willing parents, it's usually the woman who gets left with the responsibility.  It's a responsibility that can be overwhelming and if not exercised in the proper way can have consequences for generations.  

Can moms and dads learn from the stories and experiences of others.  Certainly.  

My mother is a foundational individual in my personal narrative and I will start posting bits and pieces from my memory with the goal of weaving this all into a book.  Without my mom, I would have never made it out of childhood.  The next most important person in my whole life is my wife.  She has loved with with an unconditional love and has convinced me that it won't stop.  

More to come. 

Here's my rough plan for writing my book on how I was affected by my dad's abandonment of me as a baby

Me2 I'm not looking for sympathy in doing this.  I'm just trying to sort out the major parts of my life as I move into my 65th year of life and beyond.  Maybe somebody can learn from reading my story and use it to understand themselves, their kids or somebody they know.  I am a firm believer that we can learn from each other.

That's why I'm trying to write a book about being abandoned by my father when I was 18 months old.  In 1948, he just walked out on my mother and me and never came back.  He vanished and never wrote, called or sent word.  

The experience shaped my childhood and left an indelible imprint on who I am today.  I have some big scars and that's not a bad thing.  They can protect from wounds that never healed completely.

One wound from my background got a new dressing this past week when a half-nephew I never knew I had emailed me and asked me to call him.  His mom was a half-sister who I never met.  He seemed really happy to learn more about his grandfather, my dad.  

How is this all valuable for someone today?

  • Parents today, especially dads, have checked out all over the place.  They are no-shows in their children's lives.  What are the consequences?
  • Baby-boomers who span generations born from 1946 to 1964 have had all kinds of spotty experiences with parents, but, especially dads who have checked out of parenthood and are coping with attitudes and emotions that they don't understand and don't want to talk about.
  • Single-moms dot our landscape and are dealing alone with responsibilities meant for two fully-engaged parents.  They need to understand better how to deal with this.
  • Churches, at least in my experience, have stumbled in helping the fatherless and they need some understanding and direction.

It's time for me to write about my story and what I've learned.  Can my experiences and the lessons from them help somebody else?  If they can then there would be a positive result from being thrown to the curb figuratively by my father.

How am I going to do this?

I need to develop a "Table of Contents" for my book and to do this, I'll use this blog for a brain dump. I'll throw down thoughts, lessons learned and happenings from my personal history with the goal being to share something useful to others.

It may seem disorganized and fragmentary.  But my goal is to pull it all together.

I invite comments throughout this effort.  Can anybody relate to this need?  Anybody have a rugged father experience?  

Stay tuned.  More to come.


Next step: Should I write a book about my father and how he affected my life?

As a newly-minted 65-year-old baby-boomer, I'm trying to winnow down the list of things that I want to do for the remainder of my life.  The sands in my personal hour glass are moving pretty fast and I need to be clear about what I want to do.

I've lived a lot of life and along the way I've been blessed by God tremendously.  The list of things I have to be thankful for would be long.  I could probably do an "A to Z" list and find something with which to fill-in every letter.

But one thing has bugged, vexed or haunted me all my life.  That's my father.  He deserted me and my mom back when I was 18-months-old by vanishing.  He never wrote, never called, never did anything to support or contact us.  There was a black hole in my life that was never filled in, even partially, until this past week.

Me2 That's when a half-nephew, I never knew I had read a post I wrote on this blog about my father.  He had been on a long-time search for facts about his grandfather, my father.  He Googled by dad's name and ran into my Father's Day missive to my dad.  He emailed me, asked me to call him which gave me a chance to connect with a part of my family that I never knew.

What an amazing experience.  During my very intense childhood, I grew a vision in my mind about my father's side of the family.  From the time of being a small-boy, I thought of them as knuckle-dragging troglodytes who had no values and who left a trail of destruction wherever they went.

That changed this past week.  They are real people.  They have lived honorable lives and have built loving families.  I'm uncertain about the future of our relationship, but I've been given important pieces of my life puzzle.  I understand more.  I don't come from the social misfits that I thought were the relatives on my dad's side.  

What do I do with this all?

I've learned a lot from this life experience.  Can anybody else gain from my story?  A big chunk of my personal identity was tied into what my father did.  My view about life and people was affected by how my mother had to struggle.  From a young age, I was always very protective of her and hurt when she hurt.  Many people treated her poorly, tried to take advantage of her which made her struggles sometimes seem impossible.

What about single-moms today?  What about their children who have been set-aside by their dads?  

How can they be helped?  Government program?  The church?  Individuals who care?  

I have a lifetime of insights, things that I have learned.  

Is it better to share and hope somebody can learn from your story or is it better to take a pencil with a big eraser and rub those memories from your life?

Maybe it's time to write this down.  First on this blog and then in a book.  Kindle single?  Maybe.



Is Gov. Rick Perry of Texas a real conservative or a phony?

“It’s legal plunder,” said state Representative David Simpson, a Longview Republican backed by Tea Party activists.

“You can’t avoid the appearance of impropriety when you take money from everyone and you give it to a select few,” said the first-term lawmaker. He opposes using tax money for business and said he voted against the school funding deal Perry signed.


The national news media is starting to lift up Gov. Rick Perry's political skirt and voters are starting to get a fuller view of this candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Click on the above link to a Bloomberg story about how Perry is using Texas taxpayers' money to give cash grants to select businesses who promise to create jobs.

And as stories show, much of the money goes to campaign contributors to the governor. Sounds like "pay to play."

Tea Party folks should be holding this guy at arms length at the very least. Don't you think?