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My father’s abandonment of me and my mom shaped every part of my life



It was 42 years ago tomorrow that I walked up the steps to my father’s house in southern Florida, rang his doorbell and told him that I was his son.  It was the boldest thing I had ever done in my life.  

I had to summon courage that I never knew I had.  When he answered the door, it was the answer to a request I made to God ever since I was a little boy. I just wanted to meet my dad.  And there he was.

In the spring of 1948 in Bay City, Michigan, he got ready for work, said goodbye to my mom and me and supposedly left for his woodworking shop, except he never made it.

He vanished.  He left no messages.  He never called.  He never followed up in any way, shape or form.  My mom was left with a 18-month old toddler, me and no way to support either of us.  

I prayed the “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer every night as long as I can remember and I’d tack onto the end the request that God would “give me a message from my dad.”  

That prayer was answered when I was 29-years-old after I had graduated MSU as a newspaper reporter.  I stumbled into his location and to details about his new life and family.  The day after I found the information, I was on my way to Florida where he lived.

When I confronted him at his doorstep, he refused to talk.  He had completely disowned me.

This is just one piece of my journey that was started when my father disappeared.  His actions affected the whole trajectory of my life.  I became a protector of my mother who was my early savior and protector.  My career choice was affected by my desire to protect women and kids who are affected by wayward fathers.

I was left with a big chasm in my heart and in my personal identity.  I was left with personal uncertainty about my ability to have a loving relationship with a wife and my ability to love kids.

Yes, the scars have healed for the most part.  Looking ahead, I can see that I will take many of them to heaven.

Why share all this?  Although, I’ve not always seen it, I have always had hope.  I’ve had to kick over rocks and look behind trees to find it, it’s been there.

I have been married for 36 years to the same woman, a person who loves me unconditionally and has made doing life together a real joy.  And I have two adult kids who are married to wonderful spouses and who have given us five grandkids who add a new purpose to life.

There are lots of dads out there who have given up on their families and their kids.  They need to know their actions can take a heavy toll.

Can God use my story or parts of it to rethink what they’re doing?  

I hope so.  That’s my prayer.

If it can be used to provide hope, then I will feel encouraged that God can use my experience to help others.