My dad should know that the cycle of bad fathering has been officially broken


My son and his son.
These two guys--father and son--really love each other.


A cycle of bad fathering can be broken.  I know because I've seen it happen right in front of my eyes.  My late father was a terrible dad and I had fears for a long time that I'd pass along his traits and that my kids would be the recipient.

I knew that God had laid his hand on my marriage and on my kids.  The best parts of my life have been being married and being a dad.  I had no template to follow for either role, other than loose relationships with various uncles.  But deep inside of me I always felt I had those genes that would make me a "loser" in both roles.

It was like a malignancy that wouldn't go away.  That fear would go into hiding and then jump out from behind the bush and then duck back.  

This week I got the clear message that the cycle had been broken.  It has been smashed.  It's no more.  My dad left behind a trail of family wreckage in multiple states.  I am an only child, but I know I have some half-siblings that I know about and probably many who I don't.

My dad stuck with my mother and me for 18 months and then vanished.  I found him 25 years later with a whole new family and he totally rejected me.  I always felt like I was never part of any one group.

My son and his family
My son Justin, his wife Lauren and my grandson Miles

That's changed.  That's changed.  This week my son Justin and his wife Lauren and their son Miles came for Thanksgiving.  At some point, the big arc light went off in my head that my dad's bad fathering had been stopped.  

Justin is an all-in husband and dad.  I knew that before.  But the bright beams on my internal headlights really made it standout.  His wife Lauren is all-in.  She's a great mom and a wife who really loves her husband.

The best job in the world is being a dad.  I learned that with the birth of Justin and his sister Krista.  I've had a bunch of jobs and enjoyed most of them.  But being a dad tops the list.

I feel the same about our daughter Krista and her husband Adam and their kids Xavier and Gretchen.  They are stellar.

In my head, I've seen the image of a big rubber stamp which says, "The cycle has been broken."

Thank-you God.  Thank-you Gladys.  Thank-you mom.


I've changed the name of my father on my birth certificate

How many of you have never known one of your parents?  

Perhaps your mom or dad just flew the coop and never came back.  They didn't call nor did they write.  Nothing.  Maybe you got your last name from that person.  Maybe you got a dimple in your chin.  There might be a few facts from the left behind parent or from an aunt and uncle and that's it.

It could have been a divorce where your parents split and you hear from your dad once a year and then it's a very short visit.  That's it.  There's so much you would like to talk about with your dad about growing up and living life, but there's nothing.  Your mom is busy working and making ends meet and she does her best.  She has nobody to go to either.

You are left to fend for yourself and you do it.  But there's always a void there that's left by your missing parent.

Continue reading "I've changed the name of my father on my birth certificate" »

I don't know why this stuff still bothers me

Do you remember the poem from the Antionne Fisher movie where he talks about the little boy still inside of him?  He had been abandoned by his mom, never knew his dad and grew up in some pretty bad foster homes.

Sometimes, I can really relate to that poem and I remember showing that movie to guys inside of the prison where I volunteered and watching their reaction.  Many had tears in their eyes.

I still feel that way when I see movies or stories about fathers and sons.  There are tears just beneath the surface waiting to come out.  

I felt that way when I saw a picture of my son-in-law and my toddler grandson walking hand-in-hand around a track carrying a basketball.  You could see it in their eyes.  They enjoyed being with each other.  I want that picture hanging in my family picture shrine in my study.  

It's the same with two pictures of my son and me taken on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.  The first was taken fifteen years ago at Stand In The Gap where  a million guys got together for a Promise Keepers event.  A few weeks ago, we took another picture in the same spot.  In the first, he was a newly-minted teenager and in this one he's a married man.  And I'm really proud of him.

I can't change what happened to me.

But I can encourage my son, my son-in-law, my grandson, grandchildren to come and other guys with kids.  

The real payback in life will come from those moments together where you are talking and caring for each other.  It doesn't take a lot, but the effort can change somebody's world.

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.


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.


There has to be something good I can say about my father-Claude H. Thorp- on Father's Day

My first stop on the web in the morning is Our Daily Bread published by Radio Bible Class.  I usually feel the need to start off the day with a God connection and its devotion helps get that jump started.  Today was no different.

The devotion was by one of its staff writers Dave Branon who wrote about Father's Day and based it on Meandhim Ephesians 6:2 where the Apostle Paul writes that we should honor our fathers and mothers.  I revered my mom.  She raised me under the most difficult of life circumstances and she did it consistently with unconditional love.  She never gave up and when she died God had to call her home a couple of times.

It's different with my father.  I have no memories of him other than maybe two minutes when I was in my mid-twenties and came face-to-face with him for the first time.  That's where I learned the meaning of being disowned.  That was it.

I spent a lifetime wondering about who he was and what made him tick.  Beside my short personal encounter with him, I had a picture of him with me when I was a baby.  It's the picture in this post. It was the only connecting point I had for the other half of what went in the making of me.

So how can I honor my father, Claude H. Thorp who was born in Millerton, New York and grew up in New York City in 1909?  First, I can share this picture.  For most of my life just holding it would produce an immense amount of emotion.  At times, the gap left in my life by his absence in my life seemed as big as the Grand Canyon.

But I've learned and truly believe that my earthly father was created by God.  What does this mean?  I discovered that he died a while ago.  But he had worth as a human being.  He made a big mistake and never made any effort to correct it.  Something happened along the way that skewered his personal identity.

He should have heard Pastor Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church where we attend.  He was teaching on Ephesians 1:5 about being adopted by the heavenly Father.  He put it in a way that I hadn't thought about it before.  He said, "Remember who you are."  He repeated that.  "Remember who you are. Remember who you are."

I wish I could have known my earthly father.  But more important I know that I've been adopted by my heavenly Father.  When I was thrown off the train and abandoned by my earthly father, it was my heavenly Father who picked me up.

I hope my earthly father heard that message before he died.


Anybody in heaven see my father, Claude H. Thorp

I'm sitting in a Beaner's coffeeshop on Waverly Road in Lansing, MI using wi-fi with my son, Justin.  It's a milestone day for me personally because I was born on this day in 1946 which makes me 60 years-old. 

As I see the clock on my timeline ticking I've thought long and hard about what I want to do in the days ahead and what I want to leave behind.

That's where my dad, Claude Thorp, comes in.  I'm wondering if he's in heaven.  I hope so.  I truly hope that he put his heart and his faith in the only one that counts, Jesus Christ.

Why is this important to me?  Well, he's my father.  But, my memories of him are limited to less than five minutes and to a threat that he'd kill me if I didn't leave his front door.  Yeah, there's a big back story with lots of details which left lots of scars.

In 1948, he left my mom and me and never came back.  For her survival was a daily struggle.  For me, I've been on a lifelong search for my father and then for anybody who could be a father figure.  Don't get the violins out.  I'm not asking for sympathy.  I am making a statement.

If he's in one of the nooks and crannies of heaven, then I want him to know it's over.  I can't do a memory wipe like they do with a computer hard drive.  But I have to move on.  I don't have enough time left to hope for what will never happen.

I know that he died in Florida in 1992 and that he was cremated.  I also know that he had a whole another family and that he never divorced my mom.  She was a saint. 

A couple nights ago I read the introduction to Tim Russert's new book about fathers.  I could identify with the feelings of Antione Fisher who wrote the poem about the little boy inside every man.  That little boy wants to cry.  Well, I've grown up.  The little boy has left.  It's over.

Dad, I forgive you for what you've done and how your absence has dogged me most of my life.  I hope other dads take note and realize how important they are.

There's a big God and there's his son Jesus who can forgive any dad for past mistakes.  Don't assume your kid will be okay without you.

The scar over this whole in my life will loosen every now and then I'm sure.  But, I know that my relationship with Jesus Christ is minute-to-minute and that he will take whatever concerns I give him.

Enough said.  I love being a dad.  I'm proud of my two grown kids.  Despite my dad's big time screw-ups, I know he would be proud too.

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Meeting my father--a few minutes of memory #2

From my notes of Sep. 27, 75, made on a United Airlines flight from Miami:

"Just some thoughts as I fly from Miami to Cleveland.

"I can't believe that the moment which I looked forward to all my life has come and gone.

"I met my father."

"For as long as I can remember, I've thought about what such a meeting between him me and would be like.  Now I know.

Continue reading "Meeting my father--a few minutes of memory #2" »

The day I met my father-Sep. 26, 1975

The notes I wrote were in an old box I found in my basement and they were written on Sep. 27, 75, the day after I met my father in Punta Gorda, FL.  His name is Claude H. Thorp from Millerton, NY.

In 1948, he abandoned my mother and me and never came back.  He never called, never wrote, never did anything to contact us ever.  His absence, his disappearance affected everything in my life to one degree or another.

Then I found him on Sep. 26, 1975.  For me, it was an answer to a prayer I prayed everynight since I was a child.  I wanted a message from my daddy, purse and simple.  I got my answer and hopped a plane to south Florida.

Mrs. Frieda M. Thorp, my mother

My mother, Frieda M. Thorp, maiden name Moll, was a saint.

She was born in 1909 at her ancestral home in the Thumb of Michigan, in one of the small four corners, called Gagetown or Bach, one of those.  Her life revolved around her family of six brothers and five sisters, her family farm, the nearby Lutheran church and school and lots of lard work and hard times.

On this Mother's Day, the memories of her are still there in bold relief, but fading somewhat.

For me, she was a world-changer, a difference-maker.  She loved me unconditionally, always.  My father, Claude H. Thorp of New York, was an idiot.  He didn't love unconditionally.  I'm not sure he knew how to love.  But my mother sure did.

Continue reading "Mrs. Frieda M. Thorp, my mother" »

Part #8--I finally found my dad-Claude Thorp-in Punta Gorda, FL

I was in my early twenties and working as a newspaper reporter at the State Capitol in Lansing.  While I was at the city library, I engaged in a habit that I developed as a youngster.  I thumbed through phone books of various cities looking for my father's name--Claude H. Thorp.

It was habit.  I never expected to find anything, so you can imagine my surprise when I found the name Claude H. Thorp in the St. Paul, MN phonebook.  My heart stopped.  I couldn't believe there would be two guys with the same name.  But, how do you check it out.  I remember the excitement I felt.  My hands were almost shaking.  It was potentially the end of a lifelong search for my dad.

My mom always claimed that he ran away from us voluntarily.  Some had suggested the possibility of amnesia.  I chose to believe that he left because his memory shut off.

Continue reading "Part #8--I finally found my dad-Claude Thorp-in Punta Gorda, FL" »

Part #7--A song: He Knows My Name

On the bulletin board in my home office, I spotted this morning, three verses of a song I saved from church--He Knows My Name.  The middle verse touched the really deep parts of my soul when I first heard it at Promise Keepers at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit several years ago.  I was there with my son.

It spoke to a need that I've felt as far back as I can remember and it's one that I've carried with me ever since.  I wanted something I never had.   I wanted my father to say, "I love you, Wes."  And, "I'm really proud of you."  Never happened, even with a father figure type.

Now don't take me wrong.  I'm not so scarred that I haven't been able to do that with my two kids.  God has poured dump trucks full of blessing on me, one after the other.  But, I still wrestled with that void.

And, then with my son, Justin, I sang this verse and it was like taking an electric shock paddle to my heart:

I have a Father:
He calls me His own:
He'll never leave me,
no matter where I go

The songwriter is Tommy Walker.  I have no idea who he is, but he nailed it.  That's what I always wanted.  Sure, the answer was always right in front of me.  I knew that, but I was never able to grab onto the handles in a way that I could make real to me. 

Now, my heart's in a different spot.  I think that I've got it.  I can now say, "I have a Father."

My prayer is that others who feel that father absence open their heart eyes and see what's in front of them.  It took me a long time to see what was always there.

I've always wondered about my dad, Claude H. Thorp, if he ever felt the presence of his father, earthly and heavenly.

Part #6--Claude H. Thorp(e) factoids

I'm picking up my father story that I started a couple of months ago with various factoids that I picked up about him from my mother or on my own:

  • His name was Claude Herbert Thorp(e) and I believe he was born in Millerton, New York.
  • He had several brothers and sisters.  Only names I remember my mother talking about are Durward, Cyrus and Grant.
  • He was in the Merchant Marine during WWII and then joined the Navy to escape something.
  • He took off the "e" in Thorpe because of some legal problems in the Navy.
  • His first wife's name was Elsie and she lived in New York City.
  • My mom and my dad met while he was in the Navy and stationed on the East Coast someplace.
  • He had a tattoo on one of his arms.
  • He had, at least, two other sons, Claude Jr., Eugene and a daughter, Karen.
  • He had a pretty successful business in St. Paul, Minnesota, a construction company.
  • From there, he moved to Punta Gorda, Florida and from there to Gainesville, Florida.
  • He was an operator.

Part #5-Dad, you should know

There are lots of dads out there who have stepped out of their kid's lives.  They span the experiential continuum from desertion to apathy.  Mine chose desertion.  I never knew him. 

When I found him down in Florida, we talked for maybe two minutes through an open door.  That was it.  I've always wondered what he was thinking when he walked out and never came back, never contacted us, never provided any financial support.  It took me years to see the scars that were left by the whole experience.  Keep in mind that I'm not asking for any sympathy, maybe understanding for others, especially kids who are experiencing the same thing.

I would have never believed it, but . . .

Continue reading "Part #5-Dad, you should know" »

Part #4-My dad left me some souvenirs

I can now see more plainly how my father's actions affected my life.

Let me be clear.  I'm not complaining.  I've been very blessed.  My mom loved me unconditionally.  I have a wife who is a gift straight from God and I have two kids who have made the word "dad" a positive word in my vocabulary.  I love being a father.  I feel the cycle of bad fathering on my father's side has stopped with me.

Now, it's time to use my experience to help others in similar situations.  The cycle needs to be stopped for others.  And, government won't do it, nor will programs.  I've know what would have made the difference for me.

Part #3--My father Claude H. Thorp

Can you take a bad situation that's affected your life in major ways and flip it into something positive that other people can gain from?

I learn from other people's experiences and how they handle them and that's my hope in sharing my life with my father or should I say without my father.

His name was Claude H. Thorp.  My mom from Michigan and my dad from New York met while my dad was in the U.S. Navy right at the end of World War II.  They were married and moved back to Bay City, Michigan where I was born. 


Continue reading "Part #3--My father Claude H. Thorp" »

Part #1--My mother, a true hall of famer

There are Halls of Fame for all the things that belong in the toy department of life.  Think of it.  There's a baseball hall of fame, football and others.  These are things that really don't matter a whole lot in the scheme of the larger questions of life.

If there was a hall of fame for parents, my mother, Frieda M. Thorp, would be there.  There's no doubt in my mind.  She loved unconditionally and never accepted letting down or quitting as an option.

My mom met my dad while visiting my aunts then boyfriend turned husband at a Navy base out east.  This happened as World War II was ending.  My dad--Claude H. Thorpe--was a ship's carpenter.  He was from Duchess County, New York, lived in New York City and had been married once before.  My mom was born and raised on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan. 

Right after the war,, they married and settled in Bay City, Michigan where I was born in 1946.  My dad stuck around for 18 months and then he was gone.